Having a family member who is neurodivergent (ND) can sometimes be overwhelming for both you and them. It also provides an opportunity to learn and grow together. Whether your loved one has a formal diagnosis or simply exhibits ND traits, there are many ways you can support and empower them.
Here are some tips on how to help your neurodivergent loved ones:
1. Educate yourself. The first step in supporting is to learn. Be curious about their unique experiences; the challenges they face, the strengths they possess and the ways they prefer to experience the world. Read or listen to books on the subject, sign up to podcasts, webinars, Ted Talks, join community groups – we have one here Different, Not Less – Supporting Neurodivergent Lives.
2. Listen and validate. Too often ND folk are marginalised and criticised. They are referred to as ‘over-sensitive’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘rude’. They are told to ‘just put up with it’, ‘stop moaning’. It is important to hear someone’s experience without putting your perspective on things. Don’t try to solve or fix things. Just pause, really listen, which means NOT thinking of what you want to say next because that’s only half listening! Validate their experiences. Let them know that you understand and love them, and that you are there to support them. We all need someone in our court.
3. Celebrate. Too often the dialogue around Neurodivergence is centred on what is wrong. Don’t we all have challenges and idiosyncrasies, regardless of whether we see ourselves as ND or NT (neuro-typical)? We need to move past this harmful narrative and see the whole of a person, Let’s correct the imbalance by paying more attention to the beauty and abilities in our ND folk. To quote the song by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, we need to ‘accentuate the positive’ and ‘latch on to the affirmative’. It’s time to change the narrative around neurodivergence.
4. Advocate. Whether it’s in education, healthcare or the workplace, advocating for your child or partner is a show of support and love. This might involve working with teachers, doctors or employers to ensure that they receive the accommodations and support they need to succeed. Or it might be as simple as being part of the conversation to raise awareness of Neurodiversity in all its technicolour splendour.
5. Self Care. Supporting a neurodivergent partner or child can be as challenging as it can be rewarding. Children especially are still learning themselves and may not have a developed sense of how to cope with the world around them. Be kind to yourself, know that it’s not always easy and it’s ok to ask for help. This might include joining a support group, seeing a therapist, or reaching out to friends or other families who have similar experiences. Reach out to me if you would like to learn more about 121 support or our Facebook Community Group
Supporting your neurodivergent family members requires love, understanding, patience and a willingness to learn. By creating a supportive environment and advocating for their needs, you can help your family members thrive and reach their full potential. Beautifully different but not less.