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Neurodiversity is the school of thought that different people with different backgrounds and neurotypes respond to and learn from the world around them in different ways. There has been a big shift for neurodiversity affirming practices in the therapy world in recent years with the hope that we will see more of these shifts across settings. These practices focus on there not being a single “right” way to learn or communicate and seek to create a world more accepting and embracing of children and adults with different neurotypes and/or diagnoses (e.g., autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder). Here are some ways you can start being more neurodiversity affirming in your home with your child today!  
  • Follow your child’s leads when it comes to playing! Whether they like to line up toys, sort objects by color, or jump on a trampoline, this is play, and it is fun for them. You can join in on their play by:
  • Narrating their actions, “Wow, you’re jumping so high!”
  • Asking questions about what they’re playing with, “I see you organized the toys by color. Which color is your favorite?”
  • Imitating their actions! When you show interest in what your child is playing with, this reinforces their motivation and engagement, and can allow for a lot of opportunities to explore language!
  • Identify your child’s strengths and utilize verbal praise to support their self confidence. Your child may be working on specific skills here at CI, but they also have many strengths as well. Praise your child when you observe something that they have done well, this provides positive reinforcement of this skill.
  • Discover what your child’s interests are and incorporate them into their daily activities and routines. This will increase their motivation and interest to complete tasks! For example, if your child is interested in dinosaurs then you could incorporate this by creating a visual schedule that is dinosaur themed.
  • Let your child stim if they need to. Stimming is a strategy both neurotypical and neurodiverse people use to help regulate their bodies and minds. This can look different across neurotypes from people twirling their hair, tapping their finger, or chewing on a pen cap to flapping their hands, rocking, or staring at moving items. Regardless, stimming is a way to express emotions, help with self-regulation, or even block out excess stimulation. You can help your child by acknowledging the reason for the stim, which can help them process how they may be feeling in that moment,“I see you’re plugging your ears, that tells me it’s too loud in here. I’ll turn the TV down.”
  • Respond to scripting as functional and meaningful communication. Scripting is when an individual verbally repeats a prior social interaction, video, song, etc. Scripting by autistic individuals is intentional communication that just looks a little different from communication by neurotypical children. Read more about gestalt language learners here: What’s The Scoop on Gestalt Language Processing? To encourage clear communication between neurotypical communication and neurodiverse communication, try making action steps. This can include identifying the intention behind the script such as identifying the significance of the script’s origin and the important factors that encouraged the script.
  • Embracing your child’s own communication style and trying to not push neurotypical communication on them by forcing them to provide eye contact or participate in a game or conversation they do not have interest in.
  • Incorporating topics of interest with anyone is beneficial to communication, but it is especially important to identify and include topics your child enjoys. Understanding their preferences can increase the positivity of your interactions and build your relationship. To put this into practice, simply observe your child during play. After some time, imitate their actions, add some new ideas, describe what they are doing or talking about, and add some comments about your own experiences. Follow their lead.
  • Allow processing time for your child to respond to questions and follow directions. Some children just need some extra time to communicate, learn, or understand, and that is okay!