The journey for every neurodiverse parent is different/unique but by sharing ours, we hope to help others know they are not alone.
Hello parents! A little something about me … I have two boys, my oldest got diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) 6 years ago and my younger boy got diagnosed with ADHD about 3 years ago. My husband and I are working parents and have learnt a ton and grown together. We can truly say that we wouldn’t change a thing about our family but it’s not always easy! Here’s a few things I wish I knew when I started the journey as a neurodiverse parent.
1. A learning difference diagnosis is NOT the end of the world.
My husband and I were definitely worried upon learning about the diagnosis, which was compounded by the long waitlists for remediation resources. We were anxious about not doing enough and/or the right thing. As time went on and the therapy started taking effect, we felt lighter as we started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We quickly realized that a label was just that, just a meaningless label. We have delightful kids who have a hard time adjusting to society’s norms and it’s our job to guide them through it.
2. Be patient with your kids and more importantly with yourself.
Māori for autism is ‘Takiwātanga’, which translates to my/his/her own time and space. Parents are often hard on themselves and blame themselves if things aren’t going as “expected”. It’s important to be patient, be consistent, and live life one day at a time.
3. The internet can be a scary place!
Almost every neurodiverse parent feels alone and takes it on themself to scour the internet in search of answers. Some of us can get lost and spiral into a web of negative & impertinent information that can make things worse. Instead, use the internet to look for groups of parents, specialists, etc., and find resources that can get you a professional opinion. Every child, neurotypical and neurodiverse, is unique. Just because your child has the same diagnosis as another child, it doesn’t mean that the same solution works!
4. It’s easy to obsess over the challenges and forget to nurture the child’s strengths
As parents, a majority of our conversations are often about what the child can’t do. Take a step back and take the time to understand and nurture their strengths as well! If you can, make the time to enroll your child in activities they enjoy.
5. Be honest and kind to yourself
Everyone has good days and bad days and telling myself that I can do everything only made things worse for me and my family. A system that has been highly effective is writing everything down, prioritizing it, and being realistic about what I can and cannot accomplish. More importantly, you HAVE to be ok with the items that you could not accomplish!
6. Do not lose your sense of self
This is the hardest one every neurodiverse parents struggle with. However, it’s imperative to have a sense of self by having your own hobbies or your own space to feel a sense of balance. Do not hesitate to ask a family member, friend, or babysitter for help! Use a barter system if needed.
7. Everyone needs help
Thinking I could do everything and eat my emotions almost broke me. I learnt to swallow my pride and asked for help, even if it was “easier to do it myself”. I learnt to let other people help me, communicate clear expectations, and not expect the same results! Don’t hesitate to ask your friends and family for help if you need to.
8. You do you!
Do what makes you and your family happy. Eliminate all toxic sources and do what works for you. If you need to take a day off from your routine or if you need to cut ties with a certain person who drains you, do it! My circle of family and friends is definitely a lot smaller, but they are extremely special and supportive!
9. Advocate for your child and teach them to advocate for themselves
It is highly important as parents to have realistic goals for our children. It’s easier to get school, teacher, and community support when you’re part of the solution. Explain the situation, understand their limitations, and offer solutions that are mutually beneficial. However, if the system doesn’t work, it’s time to find a new one that does.
10. Being a neurodiverse parent is rewarding and exhausting!
Remember that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward. Take the time to celebrate everything you’ve accomplished as a family, no matter how small. Life is hard and it’s the small moments that are often the most meaningful.