Autism Acceptance: A New Understanding of Neurodivergence

Autism Acceptance: A New Understanding of Neurodivergence

written by Carla Shuman Ph.D. posted on Psychology Today

April is Autism Acceptance Month. Autism, which is one type of neurodivergence, has received a lot of attention from the press and social media in the last several years.

There are many people who speak and write about autism, including autistic individuals. If you are autistic or know someone who is or might be, it’s important to recognize that our understanding of autism is evolving. I hope this blog post contributes to improving awareness of the current conception of what it means to be autistic and the implications of this new knowledge.

The following are some facts about autism that are often unfamiliar to people but that are important to acknowledge as we move forward in helping autistic people thrive.

1. You can be autistic your whole life and not realize it until you’re an adult.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of individuals seeking an assessment to clearly determine if they are autistic in my practice. Many people would not have “met the criteria” according to previous standards and sometimes even the current ones in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition). This is why many autistic people prefer to use the term neurodivergent. This term explains that their brain is different but that it doesn’t necessarily fit into the traditional definition of autism.

2. Autistic people can acquire neurotypical social skills, but this does not mean they are no longer autistic.

The behavior they learn by observing others never feels right to them, but they often do it in an attempt to fit in. This is called masking. This doesn’t mean that they are comfortable behaving like their peers or that they find social relationships with their neurotypical peers enjoyable.

When autistic people can relax and be themselves without the expectations of typical social exchanges, they can enjoy being with people. For example, the expectation to ask personal questions of a new acquaintance might make them uncomfortable interacting, and that’s not how they typically connect with new people.

3. Autistic people can have empathy.

Sometimes, they have quite a bit of empathy, and their emotions can be very intense. They can feel the pain of others tremendously, and it impacts them more deeply than the average person. So, it is not the case that every autistic person lacks empathy and can’t relate to others’ pain. It is often the case that they cannot relate to their peers or to situations that bother or hurt others.

Kid’s Connection – Summer Social Skills Program

Kid’s Connection – Summer Social Skills Program

Kids Connection is a program for children with anxiety and self-esteem issues. In the past we have had students with high-functioning autism, mild learning disabilities, and even general education students who struggle with working in groups and developing peer relationships. We accept students with ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety, shyness, or obsessive-compulsiveness.

This is an integrated program which offers multiple opportunities for all campers to work on skills such as:

Physical:  Increase fitness, motor skills, and teamwork

Social/Emotional: Includes communication skills, and dealing with emotions

Mindfulness: Includes practicing simple exercises to practice daily mindfulness

Game time:  Turn taking, winning/losing, and cheering on others

Team Building Activities:  Every day the campers are assigned to different teams and they work together on different activities.

Kids Connection is available for students entering Kindergarten through high school. The cost is $525 per session. The instructors are two Board Certified Behavior Analysts with combined 40 years of experience in special education.

There is an intake process in order to be accepted into the program. We ensure that the campers participating in the program will benefit from the experience.

Please email Stasia Hansen at to start the application.

19 Authoritative Parenting Tips for Raising Neurodivergent Children

19 Authoritative Parenting Tips for Raising Neurodivergent Children

written by Caroline Mendel, PsyD, posted on ADDitude Magazine

The most effective parenting style balances warmth and clear limits. Experts call it “authoritative parenting,” and it has been found to be positive for a child’s overall development.

Parents raising neurodivergent children — kids with ADHD, autism, learning disorders, and other conditions — generally benefit when they apply a wider range of these strategies more frequently and over a longer period of time. Many neurodivergent families also seek the help of a mental health professional to apply these techniques and tailor them to a child’s individual needs.

Here are some basic strategies to guide you.

1. Praise Positive Behaviors

Praise, and other forms of attention, act as the sunshine and fertilizer that positive behaviors need to bloom — without them, undesired behaviors, or the weeds, may overtake the garden.

  • Praise the behaviors you want to see. If your child has difficulty listening, say, “Great job listening so quickly” as soon as your child demonstrates the behavior.
  • Be specific and sincere in your praise. Highlight the positive behavior your child engaged in. Say, “Great job sticking with that challenging problem.”
  • Combine verbal praise with nonverbal reinforcers, like high-fives or pats on the back.
  • Provide praise immediately after the desired behavior happens.

Provide lots of praise throughout the day, especially to counteract negative feedback your child may have received.

2. Ignore Minor Misbehavior

Sometimes, children will seek a parent’s attention in less constructive ways, like via whining, interrupting, and being purposely annoying. Paying attention to these behaviors reinforces them. Instead, ignore these behaviors and actively wait for the opportunity to praise the good behaviors that come through. If your child typically whines when they have to wait, ignore the whining and praise them when they stop whining and demonstrate patience. Say, “Thank you for waiting calmly while I finish my phone call.”

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