Neurodiversity-Affirming

Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences are natural and expected variations of the human brain, similar to expected physical differences like eye color and height. The Neurodiversity movement emphasizes the value of each individual person, and focuses on support, equity, and inclusion for all people.      
      -Andi Putt, MS CCC-SLP

Hi I'm Julie, Founder here at The Connected Parent. As a parent of two neurodivergent children and being neurodivergent myself, I understand the fundamental importance of finding the right care and resources. It is about finding those people and places, who not only accommodate us, but also celebrate and affirm our inherent diversity. Recognizing that neurodiversity is not a burden to be accommodated but a key aspect of human diversity to be nurtured, respected and cherished is vital.

It was in this spirit that The Connected Parent was born. Our aim? To create a space where parents, children, and individuals can learn about and find the resources they need. We believe in connecting you with businesses and providers that align with your needs and values.

To make this process even more tailored and efficient, we are thrilled to announce a new addition to our search tool: our Neurodiversity-Affirming search filter.

If you're feeling slightly lost in the whirlwind of  learning about Neurodiversity or Neurodiversity-Affirming care,  we've got the perfect resource for you below. Our very own Advisor, Andi Putt, has written an article that simplifies this concept in the most comprehensive, yet digestible way. It's an insightful read that we highly recommend for anyone new or simply interested in neurodiversity or neurodiversity affirming care better.

- Julie Walters, CEO, Founder, The Connected Parent

From Awareness to Acceptance: Prioritizing Neurodiversity Affirming Practices
What is Neurodiversity Affirming Care, and why is it so important?

Written by:
Andi Putt, MS CCC-SLP
Updated:
02/07/2024
Written by:
Andi Putt, MS CCC-SLP
Updated:
02/07/2024

When faced with the possibility that their child has a diagnosis or disability, most caregivers experience a range of emotions that often revolve around fear and other ‘negative’ feelings. This emotional response is often influenced by societal norms and perceptions surrounding differences and disabilities, which tend to portray them as inherently “wrong,” “bad,” “broken,” or in need of a fix or cure. But, what if we approached disability differently? If we viewed it not as a deficit, but as an equally valid and accepted part of human variation. That is exactly the heart of what Neurodiversity affirming care is all about! By reframing how people view disability, we can bring about significant positive changes for both caregivers, professionals, and neurodivergent people alike. 

Before we dive further into the importance of Neurodiversity affirming care, let’s take a moment to go over some key terminology.

Neurodiversity is the idea that neurological differences are natural and expected variations of the human brain, similar to expected physical differences like eye color and height. The Neurodiversity movement emphasizes the value of each individual person, and focuses on support, equity, and inclusion for all people. 

Neurotypical (NT) is a neurotype that describes how many/most brains process information, and is often idealized and prioritized by society. Unfortunately, it is frequently set as a targeted “goal” for many Neurodivergent people, leading many neurodivergent people to be marginalized.

Neurodivergent (ND) is a term used to describe any brain that processing information differently from what is considered neurotypical. This encompasses Autism, ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, personality disorders, learning disabilities, and various other brain based differences. 

Neurodiversity-affirming care occurs when caregivers, teachers, therapists, and other supports in a person’s life accept neurodivergent individuals as they are, embracing their brains as equal, valid, and whole– rather than seeing them as broken or in need of repair. This approach focuses on understanding and celebrating a person’s unique strengths and abilities, rather than a deficit-based approach. Neuro-affirming care recognizes that our society is built for neurotypical people and this is often one of the biggest hurdles for neurodivergent people. As a result, the ND person will likely benefit from accommodations and supports to access the world around them.

At its core, Neurodiversity-affirming care priorities respect, understanding, autonomy, and acceptance of neurodivergent individuals. It involves actively listening to the voices of the neurodivergent community, honoring individual preferences, and involving the individual in decision-making processes about their care. 

Neurodiversity-affirming care requires a continuous process of rethinking, re-evaluating, and challenging stereotypes and previously held beliefs about disability. By doing so, caregivers and support systems can create an environment that fosters inclusivity, empowerment, and positive outcomes for neurodivergent people. 

Now that we’ve explored the concept of neurodiversity and why neuro-affirming care is critical to support neurodivergent individuals, you might be wondering what this type of care looks like in real life. The truth is, it can look many different ways and should be tailored to meet each individual’s needs and personal goals. However, neuro-affirming typically encompasses the following ideologies: 

Redefined Success: Many people define success as the ability to meet, conform to, or exceed developmental and long-term milestones. While milestones can be helpful to identify if and when a child may need support or evaluation, once identified, the goal should change from meeting milestones to focusing on individual strengths and personal abilities. Regardless of neurology, priorities should include: fostering happiness, enhancing sensory and emotional regulation, self-esteem, and mental health (NOT milestones, grades, or positions in society). 

Shifted Perspective on Therapy Values: The goal of therapy and support should always prioritize the individual and THEIR needs - not others’ needs. Additionally, it’s crucial to recognize that attempting to make a neurodivergent person appear neurotypical not only communicates inadequacy and wrongness, but also sets unrealistic standards leading to failure, as it’s impossible to change one’s neurology. 

When developing and implementing therapy goals, the following should be considered:

Embracing neurodiversity and celebrating each individual's unique strengths and areas of needed support is a powerful way to foster independence and enhance one’s overall quality of life. Using a neuro-affirming approach allows kids to have improved mental health, less exposure to trauma, better sense of self, and stronger self-esteem. 

While the benefits of neurodiversity-affirming approach may seem clearly evident, accessing neuro-affirming care can pose significant challenges to families. Healthcare professionals often take time to adapt to new concepts, making it difficult to find  practitioners knowledgeable about neuro-affirming care. Additionally, there’s not a reliable way for families to find neuro-affirming practitioners in their area. 

Fortunately, The Connected Parent offers a simple solution with their new Neurodiversity-affirming filter. This tool empowers families to search for facilities and practitioners who value neurodiversity and routinely provide neuro-affirming care. By taking advantage of this resource, families can seamlessly connect with healthcare providers who are committed to their values and prioritize the well-being of neurodivergent individuals.