Tonight, I had an eye-opening experience during my son’s meet-the-teachers event. Sitting in a room full of engaged parents, I started to feel agitated six minutes in. It wasn’t until I paused to assess why I felt this way that I realised it was because of the deafening air conditioning unit. My husband couldn’t hear it, but for me, it was as if a hairdryer was blaring.
This moment struck me as a poignant reminder of why it’s crucial for children to understand themselves and their own unique challenges. I have sensory processing disorder; sounds are louder to me, smells are stronger, and my overall senses are heightened. Acknowledging this allowed me to manage my emotional reactions effectively, freeing me from increasing agitation and irritation.
Imagine Being a Child in This Scenario.
Consider a child navigating a similar experience in a classroom, except they have no idea why they’re struggling. They don’t have the language to describe what’s overwhelming them, nor do they have the coping mechanisms to handle it. They’re working ten times harder just to process the same information as their peers.
When a child who is neurodiverse reaches their limit and has a meltdown, it’s important to recognise the enormous amount of emotional and sensory processing they’ve been doing beforehand. What you witness—the behaviour—is merely the tip of the iceberg. The struggle is real but often invisible.
A Three-Step Solution: Self-Awareness, Self-Talk, and Communication.
1. Self-Awareness: Recognise that you’re experiencing the world differently. Knowing is half the battle.
2. Positive Self-Talk: Equip yourself with language to soothe and affirm your experience. This enables you to lower emotional reactivity.
3. Effective Communication: Learn how to articulate your unique needs so that adjustments can be made to make your environment more accommodating.
The Parent’s Role in Shaping a More Understanding Future.
If you’re a parent raising a neurodiverse child, it’s crucial that you equip them with the skills they need to advocate for themselves when you’re not there to communicate for them.
1. Teach Self-Awareness: The first step is providing them with a label and understanding, so they’re not lost and confused. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s terrifying for a child who doesn’t understand what’s happening to them.
2. Promote Positive Self-Talk: Arm your child with the language to coach themselves through tough situations. Affirmation is key; let them know it’s okay to validate their experiences and avoid negative self-judgment.
3. Foster Effective Communication: Equip your child with the ability to express their needs clearly, even using role plays to practice. They should feel empowered to ask for environmental adjustments without feeling burdensome.
We as parents must ensure our children not only understand themselves but also can navigate a world that may not always understand them.
The good news is that by empowering our children in this way, we’re not just helping them cope; we’re setting them up for the rest of their lives.