If you’ve been following my family and I for a while, you may already know that we’re pretty candid at times when it comes to our personal experiences. I started my blogging journey almost 10 years ago when I was searching for a sense of community through major life changes like cross country moves, wedding planning, and first-time motherhood. There’s been one area of our life we’ve kept private until now. Like any mom, my greatest desire is to see my kids happy. I want them to never feel held back by labels or society’s expectations of them. That’s why my job is to not only prepare them for success, but to do what I can to influence the world around them to love and embrace them as much as I do.
Sometime ago, we began to suspect that one of our sons might be different. Naturally, as parents, we were worried. We did our research and sought ways to help him. Today, I’m happy to say that we’re no longer worried. We embrace the difference and we are so proud of him. Our main priority isn’t to change him, but to help change the world around him. We strive to encourage others to educate themselves and accept those that are neurodiverse.
No matter what label anyone tries to give him, he’s going to have the power to create his own path. I believe our son should have the opportunity to share his own story. That’s why I will continue to remain vague in specifying which son I’m referring to when discussing neurodiversity topics. I’m just here to share my own story and let moms of exceptional children know they’re not alone.
We love our children so much that all we want to do is protect them. They are perfectly made in every way. As important as it is to be involved in your child’s development, we also recognize the need to contribute to a world that accepts them as they are. I want people to see the beauty in neurodiversity. I want people to see how wonderful and amazing my child is. No label affixed to him can hold him back.
What exactly is neurodiversity? The term neurodiversity, as defined by Psychology Today, is a fusion of two words “neurological” and “diversity”. Just as there are variations in physical attributes from person to person, the human brain and nervous system have their differences in development and function. These differences present as a wide array, or spectrum, of cognitive capabilities. Neurodiversity is used to refer to conditions such as ADHD, autism, Asperger’s syndrome (now defined as Autism under current DSM), Pragmatic Communication Disorder, Sensory Processing disorder, Auditory processing disorder, dyslexia, Tourette’s, and other learning and neurodevelopmental differences.
Now that we’ve defined what neurodiversity is, I think it’s also important to clear up some misconceptions about individuals with neurodiversity conditions.
Fiction: People with ADHD are lazy or unmotivated
FACT: people with ADHD struggle to do things they don’t find enjoyment in. Leaving work unfinished isn’t intentional. Difficulty completing tasks correctly is a symptom of the condition.
Fiction: Neurodiversity only causes an increased sensitivity to other people.
FACT: Neurodiversity can cause sensory processing issues in response to a wide array of stimuli. This results in an over-responsiveness or under-responsiveness to stimuli that include smells, tastes, sounds, textures, temperatures, sights, balance, and body awareness. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) interferes with how the body receives messages from the senses and sends it to be processed by the brain to produce correct motor and behavioral responses. Personal sensitivities vary by individual, however, awareness and accommodations can relieve the discomfort.
Fiction: Sensory processing disorder (SPD) only affects children.
FACT: SPD is a neurological condition that affects developing children and adults. It’s estimated that at least 1 in 20 people in the general population are affected by SPD.
Fiction: Autism spectrum disorder primarily affects a particular race or group of individuals.
FACT: Autism occurs within all races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and both sexes. Autism affects 1 in 68 children, and it is four times more prevalent in boys than girls. Many autistic individuals go undiagnosed
Fiction: There are not many options to support an autistic individual.
FACT: This is false. Autism, amongst other developmental disorders, can be managed with behavioral therapies, educational therapies, and diet changes. Early diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve a child’s development. One will always be autistic but symptoms can be improved.
Fiction: all people with autism struggle with eye contact
FACT: by definition, autistic individuals struggle with some forms of social communication But that does not always mean an issue with eye contact
Fiction: People with autism have difficulty forming relationships and creating bonds.
FACT: Although people with autism experience social challenges, they are capable of having relationships and can create bonds with neurotypical or neurodiverse individuals.
Fiction: It is very apparent when someone is on the spectrum.
FACT: Just like all medical conditions, there are varying degrees. It’s a common misconception that an autistic person has a intellectual disability or that someone with ADHD would be jumping off the walls but this could not be further from the truth.
Fiction: Everyone on the spectrum is nonverbal.
FACT: This is not true, most of the neurodiverse population are capable of verbally communicating. Only about 25%-30% of neurodiverse adults are non-verbal or minimally verbal beginning in childhood, meaning they are unable to use spoken language or have significant impairments with it.
Fiction: Neurodiverse conditions present the same in all diagnosed individuals.
FACT: The signs of Autism can vary and may be different for older individuals in comparison to children. Some common attributes include, but are not limited to:
- social communication difficulties
- some difficulties adjusting to unexpected change
- a love of repetition or “need for sameness”
- unusually narrow interests
- sensory hyper- and hypo-sensitivities (all examples of difference).
- adorable tics or repetitive actions known as “stimming” used to self regulate
Autism can also be linked to cognitive strengths and special talents, primarily related to attention to memory of details, and a strong drive to detect patterns (all of these are differences).
Fiction: Neurodiverse conditions are always “caught” during childhood.
FACT: Although there has been progress in early identification and diagnosis of neurodiverse conditions, many individuals are diagnosed later on in their adulthood.
Here are more helpful facts to know!
- Oftentimes people with autism can have hyper focused interests and can be experts in certain areas due to that.
- Neurodiverse individuals tend to experience difficulty with adapting to change. A helpful approach to introducing new changes is to provide prompts and to let them know ahead of time.
- ADHD and autism are often missed in girls because 1. It presents differently than in boys 2. It has been studied more often in boys than girls
If you take anything away from this, remember that having a disability does not diminish them as a person. If your child is just getting diagnosed with any of these do not worry or panic. There is no emergency, this is a marathon not a sprint. They are still the beautiful person that yoI’ve grown to love and adore. The diagnosis has just opened the door to support in living their fullest life. I’ll be sharing more about ways we’ve helped our son flourish in future posts.