“Neurodivergent Affirming”: What It Is And What It Means for Your Child

Written by Dr Lucy Russell DClinPsyc CPsychol AFBPsS
Dr Lucy Russell Clinical Psychologist Founder of They Are The Future
Author: Dr Lucy Russell, Clinical Psychologist

Understanding what it means to be neurodivergent affirming can make a world of difference for your child’s well-being.

Read on to discover its importance and how you can help your child thrive.

a happy tween girl lying down with her arms in the air

What is Neurodivergent Affirming?

Neurodivergent affirming means recognizing and respecting the unique ways in which neurodivergent people think, learn, and experience the world.

It involves understanding that differences such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are natural variations of the human mind.

Instead of trying to “fix” these differences, we embrace and support them.

This table highlights the key differences between neurodivergent affirming and non-affirming practices.

Respects sensory needsIgnores or dismisses sensory needs
Focuses on strengthsFocuses on weaknesses
Encourages special interestsDiscourages or ignores special interests
Validates feelings and experiencesInvalidates or dismisses feelings
Provides tailored supportUses one-size-fits-all approach
teen girl playing piano and smiling at the camera

Neurodivergent Affirming: Why It Matters

Being neurodivergent affirming is crucial for the wellbeing of neurodivergent children. It helps them feel accepted and valued for who they are.

This approach will boost their self-esteem and mental health, giving them a chance to thrive in a world that often misunderstands them.

When children feel accepted, they are more likely to succeed both emotionally and academically.


What to Look Out For

When you’re seeking support, look for neurodivergent affirming doctors, mental health professionals, and teachers.

These professionals respect neurodivergent experiences and avoid viewing them as deficits.

They use inclusive practices, ask for and listen to your child’s input, and create environments where your child feels safe and understood.

They focus on strengths rather than just challenges.

a little boy writing at a desk

How to Be Neurodivergent Affirming at Home

Creating a neurodivergent affirming environment at home starts with listening to your child and respecting their experiences.

For example, if your child likes to lie upside down on the sofa because it gives them sensory input they need, let them!

Encourage their interests and strengths, like diving deep into a topic they love.

Provide clear and consistent routines, but be flexible when needed.

Use positive language and avoid making them feel like they need to change who they are.

Celebrate their successes, no matter how small, like finishing a book or making a new friend.

Most importantly, try not to compare your child with others.

happy tween boy sitting in an arm chair

Helping Your Child’s School Be Neurodivergent Affirming

Work with your child’s school to ensure they understand and support neurodivergent students.

Share information about your child’s needs and strengths with teachers.

Advocate for accommodations that can help your child succeed, like extra time on tests or a quiet space to work.

For example, if your child needs breaks to move around, suggest a plan for short, frequent breaks.

Encourage the school to provide training on neurodiversity for all staff. Collaboration between parents and schools can create a supportive environment for your child.

By embracing neurodivergent affirming practices, we can help our children feel valued and understood, setting them up for a happier and more successful future.

Related Articles

6 Sensory Sleep Strategies: Better Bedtimes For Your Child

Autism & Masking at School

Creating a Stress-Free ADHD Morning Routine For Your Child

Empowering Autistic Children: Top 10 Autism Classroom Ideas For Every Teacher and Parent to Know

Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years. In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children.

Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.

Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.

UK parents, looking for expert parenting advice?

Dr. Lucy Russell’s Everlief Parent Club offers a clear path towards a calmer, happier family life. This monthly membership includes exclusive workshops, direct support from child psychologists, and access to our private Facebook community.

Together, we can move towards a calm, happy family life and boost your child’s wellbeing. Become a member today!