Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher
Who is the ‘average’ child?
As a parent we worry about our children. We want them to be happy and be their best selves. We sometimes also want them to fit or blend into a society that has expectations about what typical ways to communicate and behave. In reality this is the average, or the mean. This can be a bit like making a round peg fit into a square hole. It ends up being a squeeze and is never comfortable, nor does it look it either.
The more we try to squeeze our child into one shape or another to conform to what others say is the ‘normal’, we see increasing signs of stress or anxiety.
- Has your child become angry with you, other children or adults? Do they feel frustrated, upset and ashamed they can’t do something that other children around them seem to do so easily? Do they feel they are not understood?
- Have they been seen as ‘naughty’ and ‘out of control’ ? Is this our role as adults to control children or allow them to thrive?
- Does your child show signs of anxiety? Biting their nails, crying, not sleeping at night, lowered mood, showing anger to others or withdrawn and silent (doesn’t say how they feel)?
For your child at school:
- the playground can be too noisy
- they may need to communicate verbally easily when they tic when put under pressure.
- it may require them to perfect their hand writing to gain a pen license despite them having DCD(Dyspraxia) (and there being computers as an alternative)
- they may need to be a good footballer when they love to swim and walk
Each day presents hurdles that they lie in bed at night and worry about and you as parents often worry too.
What is neurodiversity?
The term neurodiversity (often used incorrectly to mean autism spectrum conditions) really means all of us and the differences in who we are. The term neurotypical generally means the mean of the population i.e. what most people do. Specifically in this case cognitively, emotionally, and in forms of communication. We then consider those who don’t sit in the middle to diverge from this. Hence the term neurodivergent is used.
I am a parent and grandparent of wonderful and neurodivergent children. In fact, we are a huge family where our Neurotypical is Neurodivergent to everyone else. I have family members who have diagnoses of ADHD, ASD, DCD, Dyslexia, and Epilepsy. These wonderful productive people are also creative, inventive, artistic, scientific, and musical (we don’t have many great sports people). Many of them found school days hard and were anxious most of the time trying to fit in, or gain support in a timely manner.
What I do know is, the boxes we put people in are artificially constructed to try and understand more about each child. We also have lots of evidence that neurodevelopmental conditions often overlap with each other.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Robert Baruch
Each child will have their own spiky profile of strengths and challenges. Their own patterns of motivations and interests. We need to provide support for each child that is person centred. Considering the environment that brings out the best for each child. We often hear the phrase ‘no-one left behind’. But we need to see that those at the edges are as important and valued, and not just want them to move into the middle. We need to celebrate who they are.
Do-IT have spent the last 10 years, working with 1000s of families and have developed the Neurodiversity Profiler for parents of 7-16 year old’s.
Next week we will be launching our new NEURODIVERSITY CHILDREN’S PROFILER (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.