Supporting a Neurodiverse Child

In anxiety, Child Counselling, child development, Individual Counselling, relationship counselling, Student Counselling by melton

Supporting a Neurodiverse Child

By Amy Meyer, BSW, RSW

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that includes a range of neurodevelopmental conditions impacting one’s brain function. Neurodiversity celebrates that no two brains, or people, are alike. Clinical psychologist, Dr. Julia Barnes suggests “Neurodivergence is a form of human diversity” and that despite societal norms there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ type of brain function.

Interestingly, there is not a set number of conditions that are included within neurodiversity. Some of the diagnoses that fall under the term neurodiversity include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Sensory Processing Issues, Cognitive disabilities (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia), as well as Tourette Syndrome, to name a few.

How Can Caregivers Support Their Neurodivergent Child?

Understanding the unique needs of the child is critical. It is also important to normalize that each caregiver may have differing reactions to the child’s needs. Some folks find comfort in a diagnosis, whereas others may need some time to process what a diagnosis means. Working with a team of health providers may be beneficial for caregivers and it may be frustrating to have multiple inputs and differing opinions.

Advocating for your neurodiverse child can often be large piece of caregiving. It can require caregivers to become the expert on the child’s diagnosis, needs and support system. You may be required to advocate for the child within education and health care systems. A diagnosis alone does not mean that equitable care will always be provided, and the child may need your support to advocate for the appropriate care for them. This may be an empowering and rewarding experience for the caregiver and it can also be exhausting, discouraging and disempowering.

How to Talk to a Neurodivergent Child About Their Experience

By supporting the child in their self-identity, it helps strengthen their sense of self and belonging which has several benefits to the child’s overall wellness. While talking to your child about their neurodiverse experience, it is important to validate their feelings surrounding their challenges before highlighting their strengths. Additionally, providing education about how their own brain functions can help both of you to identify the appropriate resources to best support the child.

Self Compassion for Caregivers

Caregiving, while rewarding, demands energy, time and resources and it is normal to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Depending on the complexity of a child’s needs, caregivers may experience isolation from their peers and/or a lack of understanding and appreciation of the difference surrounding the child’s care. We know that support systems are important to normalizing and validating our lived experience and caregivers of neurodiverse children benefit from these shared experiences too! Seeking out supportive people and/or groups may provide caregivers with the benefits of normalizing their experience and providing them with a sense of community.

Parenting in today’s Western society is complex. Where social media influencers are modelling “perfect” parenting and choices in parenting are often critiqued and pulled apart online and in public, it can be hard to feel confident in our choice with our children. Ultimately, we can accept life’s challenges by practicing self compassion, which looks like directing kindness inwards. The reality is that most parents are doing the best they can and despite being knowledgeable about your child, a caregiver of a neurodivergent child will usually experience obstacles in an area of the child’s life and functioning. Self compassion can help caregivers by being in tune with their feelings, honouring them and doing so without judgment and thereby turn those same practices toward their child.



How to Support a Neurodivergent Child | Children’s Hospital Colorado (

Parenting A Neurodivergent Child is Hard! | Psychology Today Canada