The problem with teaching kids to ‘fit in’


by Adina Levy

I’ve been thinking and talking a lot recently about how it’s possible and helpful to support autistic children’s social interactions, BUT it must be done in Neurodiversity Affirming ways.


One key issue is the messages that we adults give autistic children about fitting in versus belonging.


We need to be really careful about the term ‘fitting in’. We cannot be teaching neurodivergent kids that they’d need to change, to fit in with other people, and that’s the way that they’re going to be accepted socially.


The fabulous Brené Brown has a quote which just hits this topic on its head.


“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.”

‘Fitting in’ is a dirty word.


‘Fitting in’ is about asking someone to change, to be like other people. And it just gives the message that somebody is not enough, not good enough, not correct. Lifetimes of being told this, both explicitly and implicitly through other people’s actions, can be incredibly harmful and can lead autistic people to have no idea who they really are. To always feel that interactions are super effortful because all they’re doing is masking their true selves, hiding who they are, acting differently, and to never feel like they’re enough, the way that they are.


Let’s just step back for a moment and reflect on yourself and your own life. When have you felt truly accepted, supported, part of something. Who are those people that have made you feel that way? And how much did they celebrate how you are as a human?


And how can we support the autistic and neurodivergent children in your life to find more spaces where they are TRULY accepted for who they are. How can YOU be a huge part of this change?

🎧 Curious to learn more about what an affirming approach to social supports looks like?


Listen to this podcast episode: Neurodiversity Affirming ‘Social Skills’ Support for Autistic Children – Part 2: What Is and What Isn’t Affirming

It’s 15 minutes of info and Neurodiversity Affirming ideas around social supports. If you’ve listened, I’d love to hear what big idea you took away from it!

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