Nathan Wallis - Raising neurodivergent kids
What to know about raising neurodivergent children - advice from Nathan Wallis
Raising a neurodivergent child or wondering if your child may be neurodivergent? Our resident parenting expert and neuroscience educator, Nathan Wallis, explains some common traits of neurodivergent children, and offers some helpful tips for raising and empowering them.
Signs to look out for
If you are questioning whether your child may be neurodivergent, there are a few key indicators you can look out for.
The main one is big emotions. Neurodivergent children are wired in a way that makes emotion really intense, which is often expressed in prolonged tantrums or meltdowns. You may also notice this behaviour is out of sync with the norm for their peers.
Some helpful techniques
When it comes to supporting your child, one of the most simple but effective techniques to keep in mind is validation. In this process, you reflect back the emotion your child is feeling before you try to give them any strategies. For example, if your child is angry, you say to them ‘I realise this has made you really angry.’ By doing this, your child feels listened to and it calms their emotional brain just that little bit more.
Another technique is routine and ritual. While as adults we have our own ways of calming ourselves down with techniques such as controlled breathing, it’s difficult to get a child to do this when they are in the middle of a meltdown. The trick is to build the ritual into your child’s routine so it becomes a habit. For example at the start of every meal, you stop and focus internally to centre yourself and focus on your breathing. This will make it easier for your child to access the technique when they need it.
Celebrate their strengths
When it comes to empowering your child and celebrating their strengths and abilities, a lot of it comes down to role modelling. While we often strive to be humble, if your children see you celebrating your own strengths, they're more likely to do so too.
Some of the most famous people in history are neurodivergent, so let your children know that! Use them as role models and a source of motivation for your children.
Where to look for help
If you feel as if your resources are tapped out and you've hit a dead end, or you're having thoughts that you might want a second opinion, that in itself can be an indication to seek professional help.
For more information on raising neurodivergent children, there's some great resources out there including:
- E Tū Tāngata
- Mental Health Foundation NZ
- Autism New Zealand
- ADHD New Zealand
- Dyslexia Foundation of NZ
- SPELD NZ
- Parent to Parent
- Waiora Tamariki
Nathan Wallis is a Neuroscience Educator, nib health insurance parenting expert and regular media commentator. He hosts sold-out learning events for parents up and down the country (and abroad), talking to different stages of child development – including the first 1000 days - and how parents can support their children in order to help achieve the best possible outcomes.