Emotions

Stop Fighting Your Child’s Neurodiversity: A Step-by-Step Plan for Parents in Diagnosis Denial

Your child is wired differently, and that means his life may not follow the path you envisioned. Before you can help him thrive, you must give yourself space and time to recognize the emotions that a neurodivergent diagnosis brings. Here’s how to get started embracing your new “normal.”

A child diagnosed as neurodiverse paints with his hands.

When your child was born, you imagined a future for him with no boundaries. His neurodivergent diagnosis – with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, or any other hallmark of neurodiversity – changed that, for you and your child.

Most literature about neurodiverse children tells parents how to help their kids thrive. What’s missing: advice for how we, as parents, can thrive when raising a child who differs from the mental picture we painted before her birth. What’s desperately needed: the time and space to move through the emotions that inevitably follow a diagnosis.

My personal transformation involved four tangible shifts in perspective. I call them “tilts” in my book, Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World.

Each phase requires this: notice your own thoughts and reflect on them. My reflection questions will guide you as you explore feelings of isolation and frustration – and suggest strategies for transforming your mindset and your parenting.

Phase 1: Process and accept your child’s diagnosis.

When you’re fighting your child’s true identity, you can’t support him or nurture yourself. Your first step toward acceptance is to pause and grapple with your own complicated emotions about his or her diagnosis. Click here for a detailed plan.

[Q: What Was Your Reaction to Your Child’s Diagnosis?]

Phase 2: Parent from a place of possibility, instead of fear.

Fear of the unknown will only hold back you and your child. But knowing that won’t stop your brain’s 3am parade of terrifying “what-ifs.” Learn to recognize when anxiety is driving your decisions, and how to choose love and possibility instead. Click here for a detailed guide.

Phase 3: Help your child embrace self-discovery.

Give your child the self-esteem and skills to become a self-actualized adult. That is every parent’s goal, but it is especially challenging — and important — when your child is atypical. Click here for a detailed plan.

Phase 4: Shift your mindset, thoughts, and actions.

Your child is “different,” and that means you need to question everything you thought you knew about parenting. Click here for a detailed plan.

[Read This Next: “I Wish I Had Known…”]

This advice came from “Accepting Your Child’s Diagnosis: Transform Your Mindset, Thoughts, and Actions,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Deborah Reber in June 2018 that is now available for free replay.


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Updated on July 15, 2020

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  1. Hi! This was a great article but I was wondering if you could change the he:him pronouns to they/them as this make it seem like only boys can have ADD/ADHD/ASD which is just not the case. If you can’t then can you please try and do this for future articles. Thanks!

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