How to Support Neurodivergent Youth

Written by Erin E. Rich, OTR/L

  |  Reviewed by Mason Dunn

For those of us who care for preteens & teens who are neurodivergent (may have diagnoses including learning differences, autism, ADD, PTSD, OCD, trauma, bipolar disorder, etc )  we may be extra concerned about their sense of self, relationships, and well-being. Neurodivergent youth are 3-6 times more likely to be LGBTQ+, as compared to their peers and more likely to feel isolated.

  • Provide a safe place for your child to explore their feelings and express their authentic self. They need your support and affirmation.
  • If they struggle with communication or social skills, they may need additional support and time to process their feelings and interactions. Consider working with a therapist who specializes in gender identity and neurodivergence.
  • Ensure your child’s support team includes specialists who are well-versed in both gender and autism. Encourage your school district to provide professional development to staff who are experts in neurodivergence and the gender spectrum.
  • Consider your child’s individual learning and social needs, as well as sensitivities when providing services and support.
  • It may help for your child to role-play with you or a therapist how to self-advocate for their needs.
  • Ensure your child feels safe and trusts their friends and partners.  Unfortunately, youth with a disability are at a higher risk of dating violence.
  • Depending on your child’s cognitive needs and communication skills, they may need more supervision for longer than some peers, to ensure they are safe.
  • For tweens and teens who struggle with social relationships and friendships, it is important that they participate in activities that they enjoy and celebrate their strengths. This could be with a partner, friend, or by themselves.  Healthy recreational activities that bring them joy should be encouraged!

While a neurodivergent person may need more assistance in some areas over others, we want to honor their individualism and adaptability, and maximize their independence. It can be mentally and physically exhausting living in a world that accommodates mostly neurotypical people.

Our society needs to change the way it operates so it can accommodate all persons and their needs. If our world did this, then neurodivergence is just another part of neurodiversity, which is a beautiful thing.

Resources

Disability Communities – Love is Respect 

Netflix Movie- Love on the Spectrum 

www.ProjectLETS.org

Supporting Transgender Autistic Youth and Adults by Finn Gratton