Collaboration & Advocacy: When others aren’t aligned with your Neurodiversity Affirming approach to supporting Neurodivergent Kids
Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast – Episode 9
by Adina Levy
In this episode for parents and professionals who support autistic and neurodivergent children, I share my response to a very common question – What should I do when other people don’t agree with my neurodiversity affirming approach to supporting autistic or neurodivergent kids?
I’ve got 7 ideas to share about how to collaborate and advocate when you’re not aligned with the other person’s approach. Here’s the short list:
- Build relationships – connection over compliance
- Regulate yourself
- Find their ways of learning
- Educate in their way
- Understand their barriers – get curious
- Go slooooow
- Know when to walk away
I share a lot more about these topics with parents and professionals in my webinars and workshops. Keen to learn more with me?
Free download for you: My checklist How Neurodiversity Affirming is your Child’s Team – https://playlearnchat.com/freebies
Webinar: Affirming Goal-Setting for Neurodivergent Children – https://courses.playlearnchat.com/offers/2E3y5pDR/checkout
Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Learning Hub! Available on-demand, any time, anywhere: https://courses.playlearnchat.com/offers/S8HwcApW/checkout
LIVE IN SYDNEY! Neurodiversity Affirming Practice 1-Day Workshop – Tues 11th July 2023 https://playlearnchat.com/neurodiversity-affirming-practice-1-day-sydney-workshop/
LIVE ONLINE! Neurodiversity Affirming Practice 1-Day Workshop – Thurs 6th July 2023 https://playlearnchat.com/neurodiversity-affirming-practice-1-day-sydney-workshop/
Welcome to the Exploring Neurodiversity Podcast. I’m Adina Levy from Play Learn Chat. I’m a neurodivergent speech therapist. And I’m obsessed with creating a world where neurodiversity is understood, embraced, supported, and celebrated. Join me as we have conversations about autistic, ADHD, neurodivergent experiences, and I share how you can support neurodivergent children in your world.
Let’s all work together to make change where change is needed so that the world can be a more friendly place for neurodivergent people and for everyone.
A very common question that I’ve been asked, by parents and by allied health professionals in my webinars and workshops is: what should I do when other people don’t agree with my neurodiversity affirming approach to supporting autistic or neurodivergent kids?
Raise your hand if you’ve asked this question yourself.
Perhaps you’re a parent of a neurodivergent child and you’ve got family members who don’t agree with the way that you’re parenting or seeking support for your child.
Perhaps you’re an allied health professional, and you’ve got families coming into your service, asking for supports for their children that you know, are not aligned with a neurodiversity affirming approach.
And for both parents and professionals, you might be connected with other professionals in the child support team.
Who you feel just don’t get it. You’re not aligned in your beliefs, your approach, the goals that you’re working on the way that support looks or what the priorities are.
So this episode, we’re going to talk about some approaches for collaboration and advocacy. Some ideas that you can try when you’re not on the same page as somebody else, who’s supporting your child.
One of my favorite numbers is the number seven. So I’ve got seven ideas I’m going to share, that will help you in your collaboration with other people and advocacy for neurodivergent children.
Number one is build relationships.
Number two, regulate yourself.
Number three is find out the other person’s way of learning.
Number four is educate them in their way.
Number five Is understand their barriers. Get curious.
Number six is go slow. It will take time. That is okay.
Number seven, know when to walk away.
So let’s hop into each of these points and find out a little bit more about what that looks like and why it’s so important. I do share a lot more about these ideas in my parent webinar neurodiversity affirming goals setting. And also in my workshops and webinars for allied health professionals. So if this tickles your brain and you think this is something that you’d like to learn more about and think about, to understand better how you can support your child or your clients, then stay tuned to learn how you can join me for more ideas and sharing.
Number one building relationships. I often talk about connection over compliance.
How this looks for supporting children is that we want to build a connection and relationship with kids as a more important factor than compliance, asking kids to listen to us to do, as we say. And in fact, if there ever is a time that we need compliance, for example, if there’s a safety reason, and we need a child to listen to us. We going to go a lot further if the groundwork of connection is already built.
This is a parallel process that absolutely applies when grownups are connecting and teaching and sharing ideas with other grownups.
When you’re feeling that you’re on a different page to a therapy provider, to your child’s school, to a parent that you’re working with, or to an extended family member, you’re going to go a lot further when you build relationship, take time to get to know each other, have mutual trust and feel connected with each other.
Number two is regulate yourself. I’m talking here about emotional regulation. Which is often very tied in with sensory regulation as well.
It can feel very challenging when somebody has a different perspective to you when somebody is working with your child in a way that you don’t agree with, or you’re not aligned with. It’s very natural to feel angry, upset, frustrated, flustered.
This can make it very hard for you to think clearly to have a productive conversation with somebody else where you’re presenting your perspective and opinions without turning it into a full blown argument.
It can be very hard to even confront this other person and have a discussion rather than running away and pretending that the issue never came up.
There’s a big difference between masking and regulating. This is something that I’d love to talk about in a future episode. So stay tuned.
Masking is where you hide your true self. Regulating is where you change your true self. You support yourself to feel calmer and better. And honestly, that’s probably a level of both going on when you are trying to, you know, take some deep breaths so that you can talk to another person about how they talk to your child.
So make sure that you’re taking the time. To focus your own body and mind and nervous system, so that you’re feeling ready to think clearly and do the advocacy that your child, your client or your student needs.
Number three is find the other person’s way of learning. You might love learning by scrolling through Instagram and reading what professionals share. You might learn by going straight to the academic journals and finding the published research on a topic. You might learn by talking to other people in a Facebook group.
Perhaps you learned by doing webinars and online courses. Recognise that your way of taking on information is likely to be very different to the other person’s way of taking on information.
Neither way is right or wrong. This is a moment of perspective taking.
If you’re hoping to change the understanding and beliefs of another adult, you’re going to go a lot further when you support them to learn in the way that fits their brain, their habits, their life, and their interests.
Step four is help them learn in their way. Once you have some idea about how this individual likes to take on information, you can support them to find sources that are reputable, neurodiversity affirming, and useful.
But most importantly here is aligned with the other adult’s way of learning.
You might share supportive Facebook groups that you know about, you might share helpful journal articles that you’ve read or found out about, you might find Tik Tok accounts that you’ve checked and you find are actually quite useful. Whatever it is. You’re going to go a lot further when you teach this person in the way that they learn best.
Notice here. It’s another parallel process. This is exactly the same as how we should be approaching, supporting kids’ learning.
It only goes so far to teach in the way that we ourselves learn best. It certainly might take more effort and imagination on your part, to find those resources that are aligned with how the other person learns. But the effort is very likely to pay off.
Number five, understand their barriers. Get curious. And try to be open-minded, and hear them out, try to understand what is that other person’s hesitation, misinformation, what are the biases and preconceived notions that the other adult has about autism, disability, neurodiversity.
What are the beliefs that that person has about how teaching and learning should happen? Get curious about where those beliefs have come from.
Try to aim for curious, rather than judgmental. Yes, that can be very tricky. But again, this is part of that relationship building.
When somebody feels heard and they feel like you have actually taken the effort to understand their perspective, that’s building the relationship and their trust in you. And the chances will increase that over time, they’ll be more receptive to taking on new ideas that you share with them.
Number six is go slow. If you listened to my last podcast episode about teaching kids through connection and not trauma. This might sound familiar.
When we teach anyone in this way. It can feel like it’s taking a lot of time. It’s not just going to be one conversation that changes somebody’s mind and perspective.
Try to sit with the discomfort of patience. But trust that this slow relationship-based approach, this getting curious, meeting people where they are and giving them information in the way that they need it.
That process will get you a lot more mileage than trying to cram all the information, tell somebody what they should believe and leave it at that.
Number seven is the sad reality really, which is about knowing when to walk away.
Sometimes we might need to accept that another person is just simply not aligned
with our beliefs in how we support neurodivergent children.
This might look like changing therapy providers or for therapists. It might look like sharing with a family information about other services who might be more aligned with them, where you recognise that their approach and what they’re looking for is not the neurodiversity affirming that you offer.
For parents, it might look like changing schools or childcare centers when you know that you’ve tried and tried and at a higher systemic level, that backing is not there. Your child is not being supported in the way that they should be. Parents, know that you have rights and power to advocate for your child to be supported wherever you are, in whatever setting they’re in.
Your child has a right to be supported.
And unfortunately, sometimes knowing when to walk away, it might be about cutting ties or having specific boundaries about kinds of conversations that you’ll have with another family member.
I put this point last, because I don’t believe that we should jump to this conclusion. It’s not ideal that we need to walk away from a situation or a relationship.
But there are times where you’ve tried to be aligned. You’ve tried to discuss concerns and the other person has not been receptive.
And you and your child will have much more joy in life, if you can step away from that scenario and into more supportive scenarios.
For parents, I have a tool for you, a free download, which can support you in figuring out where the advocacy is needed, for your neurodivergent child.
It’s a checklist called How Neurodiversity Affirming is your child’s team.
And you find it. If you go to playlearnchat.com/freebies. I will also pop the link straight to it in the show notes.
I also have a webinar for parents, if that is your way of learning, which is Neurodiversity Affirming Goal Setting for your Neurodivergent Child.
I share more about these ideas and how you can guide your child’s goals and support team to all be aligned with this neurodiversity affirming approach.
If you’re an allied health professional, please join me for one of three supports.
One option, which is available to you any time, anywhere in the world is my Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Learning Hub, where you get access to my introductory workshop, and three specific, deep dive topic webinars.
And two other live options that are available and open for registration right now, if you’re listing, when this podcast episode comes out.
I’ve got 2 1-Day Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Workshops for allied health professionals. One is online on Thursday, the 6th of July. And the second one is in-person in Sydney, on Tuesday, the 11th of July, 2023.
If you’d like to learn in a way that is discussion-based, you’re held accountable to do the learning. We’re sitting in a room we’re walking around, we’re meeting in groups, we’re sharing ideas.
Or online, we’re going into Zoom breakout rooms and having discussions, doing activities together. I hope that you’ll join me for one of these workshops.
But if you can’t attend one of these live days, or, the time has passed when you’re listening to this episode, the Learning Hub is always available for you. You can find all of that information on my website, playlearnchat.com/professionals.
And of course I will pop the links to all of these supports in the show notes.
Thank you so much for sharing this audio space and time with me, and thank you for being open to learning and unlearning and truly listening to the neurodivergent experience and perspective. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with a friend and join me on Instagram and Facebook. I’m @play.learn.chat
that’s Play.Learn.Chat, you’ll find all the links that we discussed in the show notes. Have a spectacular day.
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