The thing is we need to remember our children aren’t us. They don’t have the same parents, schooling or brain that we have. The world they live in now was not like ours growing up. Even now with more conversations happening about mental health, mindfulness and self care, these are experiences many of us never had.
What many of we neurodivergent people do know about the world, is that trying to fit into a space that hasn’t been made with our brains in mind isn’t easy. People aren’t always nice or accomodating when someone is different. It’s hard to ignore the struggles we had growing up in schools, or the difficulties we’ve had with jobs or relationships, and we shouldn’t because these are things that neurodivergent children will most likely deal with too.
But we also know that we are doing things for ourselves to make it possible to thrive in life with our differences too.
We’ve had to learn to carve out our space in the world, surround ourselves with people that understand us, and find the strategies and tools that work for us.
As adults, it’s not been an easy feat to accomplish. Many of us look to outside help in the form or coaching, therapy or self help to make these changes possible. How will our neurodivergent children manage to find their place in the world if we aren’t acknowledging who they really are, and working with them to help learn more about being their best selves, because we’re afraid they will be misunderstood or labelled for their differences?
It starts with understanding all we can about their neurodivergent condition, not only the parts that may present in our children, but also the invisible components too. It’s about noticing what strengths, talents, skills and special interests they have, because teachers need to know these things too so they can accurately support them. Without any of this background information, the label that is put on our children is one that is based on what others see or think they know about them. Both of which could be very inaccurate.
Advocating for them helps us create a picture of the person behind the diagnosis. Our understanding of how the diagnosis presents in our children can change the conversation from: “Charlie, the kid who’s out of control and disruptive in class,” to “Charlie, the kid who’s creative and enthusiastic, has got ADHD and gets anxious and disruptive when not understanding what to do next”
Our advocacy humanises our children, making them more than a diagnosis, but at the same time giving teachers the insight they need so they can apply the right tools and strategies from the start. Teachers also can see that our children are so much more than the presentations that come up in class, and it holds them more accountable to do offer support when they have the full picture.
I’m not suggesting that we have to tell everyone we meet everything about our neurodivergent children. Of course we are always selective of what we need to say and how to say it when we advocate. What I’m saying is that when we know more, we have a choice about what we can do to support our neurodivergent children in schools.
What may seem like a quick fix to the problem, (we can’t see any academic problems, so we’ll just keep the diagnosis to ourselves for a while), has lasting consequences later on. These consequences aren’t always dealt with by us either, but are dealt with by our children. We can’t keep quiet with a diagnosis to avoid our children being labelled. We’re assuming we have no power to change that, but I know we do.
Even while we’re working hard to define the label placed on them at school, we help our children by showing them how they can and should see themselves:
When we advocate for using the almost accurate descriptions of neurodivergent children, their strengths and needs we ensure that they are given the same opportunity as every other child to understanding who they are and what they need to succeed.