Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is about all of us and considers the diverse and different ways our brains work and how we process information.
As a parent you will see that your child (or children) are all different. They may be good at some things like playing computer games, building Lego, singing or playing football. But may have challenges when it comes to learning to spell, or socialising with other children. Strengths and challenges vary from child to child. For example a child may love doing maths but be anxious playing team games of any sort and needs to know what is happening day to day.
Every child will have their own spiky profile, with their unique pattern of strengths and challenges. No-one is ever good at everything.
At home and at school
When we are at home with our children, we may adapt things to ensure our children can enjoy the things they can do and join in family life. For example, we may give them a little longer to answer a question; or play games we know they enjoy and can participate in; we may see that when getting them to do homework they have regular breaks so they can have a movement break; or they may need to use a computer to get their ideas down rather than handwriting or alternatively talking to you first.
In school the challenge can be differentiating learning in a class of 30 children. Communication and working practices often lean towards the way that most children do a task or learn. Most children learn to read, hand write and play ball games for example. However, importantly not all children do.
Challenges at school
If your child has some delay in learning or challenges in gaining some skills this can make school days harder.
For example, if your child:
- Finds it harder to think of the words to say, then not having enough time to respond will mean they miss out on answering questions or decide not to bother at all.
- Needs to learn in short spurts or they lose focus. If classes are in longer blocks of time then your child may drift off and stop engaging.
- Finds it harder to write at speed. If they can’t use other methods, they may miss out on taking down information to review at a later date.
- Can’t tie their laces or do up buttons, then when the other children have changed for games your child may be late every time.
"Every child will have their own spiky profile with their unique pattern of strengths and challenges. No-one is ever good at everything."
Some children have amazing teachers who adapt to each child’s needs. As a result we see that child blossoming. For some children not being able to thrive in school, at home can lead them to become anxious, frustrated and in some cases angry. This can impact on their behaviour at the meal table, a reluctance to want to go to school, evidence of anxiety and effects on their sleep too. This has a ripple effect on your whole family. Tired, irritable children disrupting sleep leads to tired and irritable parents too. I remember it well!
The reality is that some children will gain a diagnosis of Dyslexia, for example, and others diagnosed as having Autism or ADHD. However, who gains a diagnosis often can be a bit of a lottery. It can depend on whether a teacher spots some signs of Dyslexia or Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder). Or a parent who knows something about one of these conditions. Tenacity if often required on the part of the parent to go to the G.P. or talk to teachers in school. It also depends on local waiting lists and service availability. For many families it can be a lengthy and at times costly process in terms of stress. Some parents are paying for assessments as an alternative at a high cost.
For most parents the starting position is to understand the challenges your child is having and gain some practical strategies to help as soon as possible. By understanding your child’s profile this can mean a starting point to help to support them to be their best.
A person-centred approach means that strategies are tailored to YOUR child. It also importantly means harnessing your child’s strengths, so they build confidence, self-esteem and become resilient.
About Do-IT Profiler
We are getting ready to launch our new NEURODIVERSITY CHILDREN’S SCREENER (FOR PARENTS). The screener is for ages 7 to 16 years and will give you your child’s own spiky profile, as well as tips and resources to help them to maximise their strengths and minimise their challenges both at home and at school.