Talking neurodiversity with children

By Psychologist Nindy Brouwers

Neurodiversity refers to that fact that people’s brains (neuro) naturally vary from one another (diversity). Finding opportunities to talk with children about neurodiversity helps to normalise the differences and ultimately celebrate them.

The natural variations in people’s brains means that what comes easily to some is more challenging for others and vice versa. For example, while some people learn to read with ease, others must work much harder. For some maintaining focus and attention is a daily struggle, while for others social interactions are a confusing riddle.

It is quite natural for children to compare themselves to their peers and become focused on not wanting to be different. But this can make them feel bad about themselves.

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Talking about neurodiversity and celebrating all the different ways people’s brains vary from one another helps to dispel the myth that there is one “right” or “normal” brain or one way of being. Discussing with children that all people have areas of strength and areas of challenge (even mum, dad and the teacher!) supports acceptance of their own individuality.

Talking about and celebrating neurodiversity can also be a wonderful way to introduce the idea that some brain types might have a name. For example, we might use the name

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In the end these names are one way of describing the various strengths and differences that we all have. We can celebrate the differences because if we were all the exact same life would be very boring indeed!

Valuing and respecting the uniqueness of individuals is also important because new and diverseways of thinking and doing are needed to help solve the problems of the future.