Neurodiversity Awareness Month....How aware are you?

Neurodiversity Awareness Month....How aware are you?

April is Neurodiversity Awareness month so it's good timing to reflect on neurodiversity and what impact, if any, an awareness campaign has for neurodivergent families. 

At the start of April my Instagram feed was filled with posts about Autism and other neurological & developmental differences.  I suppose as this is an area of high interest to me and given my line of work the algorithm was sending stuff my way.  In addition, I follow some amazing accounts that provide me with great insights and knowledge on how to better support my own girls and my clients.  

It was all very well received by me, but I wondered, how much do people who aren't affected first hand by neurodiversity appreciate the content and in fact pay attention at all.

We are very lucky to live in a world where information is easily accessed.  No matter what the question is Google or Social Media will have the answer for us in a matter of seconds. 

But why then, even with all this knowledge, is there such ignorance and lack of understanding around neurodivergence and its deep impact on individuals and their families.

Is it because there is still stigma & shame?

Is it because peoples' perception of Autism is historic and stereotypical?

Is it because Autism is a neurological difference and we are still very much on the back foot when it comes to mental health acceptance and support.....across all mental health areas?

Is it because services are so inadequate, families are in a spin and at times living from moment to moment, day by day?

Is it because we are still learning about these differences, the intricacies, the everyday challenges and the fact that it is not a one size fits all approach for supporting the children and their caregivers?

Or is it because we are a population of strong get on with it individuals who take challenges in our stride, put others needs before our own and continually push down and ignore our own feelings and needs.

I read an article in the Irish Independent Life Magazine in recent weeks titled the Autism Spectrum. 

In the article the author talks about how the push for positivity around neurodiverse conditions has seen autism championed as a 'Superpower' and she goes on to say that this is not true for everyones experience, especially with research and supports sorely lacking.....and it got me reflecting on my world as a mom to two neurodivergent girls, living with neurological differences and the role I play in all of that.  

I cant speak for the therapists, the teachers or even for the dads, but I can speak from a mothers perspective and from my own lived experience raising neurodivergent girls.  And from working with numerous mothers over the past 12 months, who are also raising neurodivergent children.

There is lots to say, and at times it can be so overwhelming and complicated it is easier to remain silent....but if we want change to happen we have to talk and we have to be able to express our needs.

In my work as a holistic therapist I refer to emotions a lot, in my job as a parent I refer to emotions a lot.  "All our emotions are valid and all have a part to play in our lives" I say. 

Making the decision to undertake an Autism assessment or any other diagnostic assessment on your child is a big big decision...and will bring in a sea of emotions. 

It's the first hurdle and one that a lot of families go through in private.  Thoughts that run through your head as you embark on this journey are; How do I start a conversation with people about this, what will their reaction be, am I ready to talk about it, my child is a high masker so will people believe me, how do I talk to my child?, do I even know what I'm talking will have all the feels.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed the next wave of emotions arrive.  Ok, so I have this document that says my child has a neurological difference.....what do I do now?  How do i support them? Questions are numerous and you are on your own figuring it all out.  There are waiting lists for services, or do I go privately?, can I afford to go privately?, what can I do as their mother to support them?, what can their school do to support them?.....and many many more questions and worries will cross your mind.

All of this uncertainty on top of the day to day parenting of a child who is relying on you for emotional support and guidance can be overwhelming and have a huge impact on your nervous system.  It can feel very isolating and lonely, and that is why it's so important to seek support where you can.

Support can come from a variety of areas and we need to not be afraid to seek it out....but that can be easier said than done.

If you know someone who has recently received a diagnosis for their child I ask you this.... 

Be there to listen, believe them when they express frustration or relay stories of difficult parenting moments that pushed them to their limits, check in on them, offer to help so they can get a break, offer words of encouragement and recommend things they can do to support themselves. Let them know they are not alone.  Silence can be defning.

Having come through a burnout I know firsthand the importance of community and looking after yourself.  I have come to realise I am the heartbeat of my home and my daughters have a huge reliance on me to support them.  My nervous system is a scaffold to their nervous systems, and so it must be stable and in good working order.  I realised when I focus on my own self care and spend time working through my own emotions and worries, that not only am I able to cope better each day, but I am happier, healthier and my daughters are happier too.

I am not going to lie and say its easy, because it's not, I've experienced life from both sides, constantly living in my fight & flight and now life with a regulated nervous system.  And let me tell you putting in the work is worth the effort all day long. 

You will generate a new found love for yourself as a person and for the life your are living.

To finish I would like to share with you 'My Words'.....reminders that keep me focused and grounded as I undertake this journey; Awareness,  Acceptance, Compassion & Love.

And please know you deserve the same chance to bring joy and peace into your life.....are you ready to do the work and embrace the changes?  


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