Supporting Neurodiversity at Home and Beyond

Home is the place where we can all feel comfortable being ourselves. There are many ways you can help make your home a safe and comforting space for your autistic child. To be neurodiversity-affirming at home, it is important to remember that your child’s needs might be different than what you might want for them. Sometimes, we need to adjust our own expectations to allow our children to experience the world on their terms.

Think about spaces and foods that are safe for your child. These include things that fit your child’s interests and sensory needs (think texture, temperature, volume, brightness etc.). To help you consider safe foods and safe spaces, reflect on strategies from therapy that have been effective and think about how they can be carried over into the home. Your therapists at ACT Learning Centre are always available to chat with about this!

Masking is when autistic individuals suppress or hide behaviours that are seen as “abnormal” (think ‘stims’, scripting and other behaviours associated with autism). It is important to learn about the effects of masking and how we can support our children in developing new skills while still being true to themselves. Finally, consider participating in training on neurodiversity-affirming practice to learn how to better support your child.

Supporting Neurodiversity in Therapy

As with any client we work with in therapy, consent is key! Autistic children may give or remove consent explicitly, using their words or actions. Alternatively, they may demonstrate this more subtly. As therapists, we must focus on first building trust with our clients. Particularly in neurodivergent-affirming practice, good rapport is essential to a positive therapy experience. Consider how to make your space safe for autistic individuals. This includes any modifications they may need to create a sensory-safe space. Finally, stay up to date on the recommendations for best practices and listen to feedback from both the autistic community and neurodiversity advocates.

Out and About

While it can be tougher to provide a fully safe space outside the home for autistic children, there are several things you can consider to be neurodiversity-affirming in the community. When going to a public place (particularly one that is unfamiliar to your child), try to pick times that will be less overstimulating for your child. For example, many museums and movie theatres offer specific times with fewer crowds, lower volume and dimmer lighting.

Be an advocate for your child. Whether at school, with our family and friends or in other public settings, we can lead by example and help those around us increase their awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity-affirming practices. Help your child advocate about their needs (e.g., any sensory input that may be overstimulating), interests and differences (e.g., forms of communication).

To read about supporting neurodiversity through language and communication, click here.