Most of the opinions I hear surrounding neurodivergent people, centre around the idea that they should be working toward functioning, living, and acting like a neurotypical person would. There is talk of how this can be done, of what ‘works’ or doesn’t. People swap techniques over cokes or cappuccinos, at parks and playgroups, and in shopping centres.
It almost always comes up that this is very difficult for families and for individuals. And this is certainly no surprise to me!
Neurodivergent people carry this name (of Neurodivergent) because their brains function in atypical ways. This means that, statistically, they are in the minority. There is nothing inherently logical or ethical in aiming for the neurodivergent to seem more typical. It is simply based on numbers. The base reasoning is that the type of brain that appears the most when you randomly gather humans together; must be the ‘right’, best, kind of brain.
Believing this means that people often do not bother to accommodate neurodivergent people – because they “should” act in some specified way. They “shouldn’t” have the neurology they do anyway. And they “should” be learning to slot into the set-up of their communities, even if this set up is entirely unsuitable for them.
Most of us will have heard the parents of neurodivergent children complaining about all the things their child is doing. I wonder how many of those parents have questioned whether, like any child, something could be going wrong in their everyday lives and repeated experiences. We hear that neurodivergence itself is to blame – but, is it really?
In my family, I live based upon the philosophy that setting people up to succeed is kind, makes sense, and will allow them to flourish. I don’t believe in setting my children up to flounder, to be miserable, or to be uncomfortable. That isn’t to say that they will never experience these things (of course they will!), but that I will not be setting up experiences with the aim of putting them into difficulty. I will not be trying to make them act like they have a typical brain. I respect that having an atypical brain greatly influences their experiences every day.
Every day, I give my children opportunities to succeed. If we are having recurring family problems, we all think about how we can change things in the family to help us thrive again. Setting my children up to succeed doesn’t mean that they will never come up against a hurdle – it simply means that I respect their neurologies and limitations, which clears the space that they need to thrive.
As a neurodivergent adult, this philosophy has helped me to thrive as well. After a childhood of being forced into difficult scenarios and told I “needed” to endure them (I didn’t), I now know the happiness that comes from discarding those expectations and setting myself up to live big and to live joyously. It feels amazing.