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  • Writer's pictureSaralicia H.

What is Neurodivergence-Affirming Care?

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

The words Neurodiverse and Neurotypical have been around for some time, but a somewhat new concept is emerging: Neuroaffirming care or practices. What does this mean? The term "Neurodiverse" was first introduced in 1998 to describe the unique ways in which brains develop. Neurodevelopment depends on many factors; some of it is genetics, others are environment, relationships, experiences, sensory processing and integration, etc. Can you imagine what this means? Every single brain is different.

There are some similarities among brains in terms of cognitive development, functioning, and cortical structure, which is what the term Neurotypical refers to. When someone's brain develops within what is typical for their age and developmental stage, and is able to meet the tasks and function at their developmental level, this is a "Neurotypical individual." Someone who, in some or many areas, does not meet typical expectations for their age and developmental level would be a "Neurodivergent individual."

I was first introduced to Neurodiversity-Affirming care back in 2014 when I received brief training in DIR/Floortime, and I have continued to learn about it through different sources, increasing my knowledge about our sensory system, neurobiology, and interpersonal factors that influence neurodevelopment and behavior.

Neurodiversity-Affirming care goes beyond recognizing that there are differences in brain development and functioning. Unlike the medical model, which seeks to "cure" Neurdiversity, Neuroaffirming practices seek to embrace and celebrate it. It is a strengths-based approach in which the "gifts" of Neurodiversity are highlighted, and the individual differences and needs are understood to increase a sense of agency and mastery.

I distinctly remember Robert Jason Grant, who developed Autplay, say during a training: "a Neurodivergent child doesn't come into therapy to stop being Neurodivergent. They come in because of what being Neurodivergent in a Neurotypical world is causing in them: anxiety, stress, depression..." We need to stop putting pressure on the Neurodiverse child and their parents, or Neurodiverse adult, to fit into the Neurotypical world. In an ideal world, we would make the world more accessible for everyone, but that's not always an option.

When we can't work with the environment to help make some changes in what we experience outside our home, working with professionals like a Neuroaffirming therapist, Occupational Therapist, Child Psychiatrist, or Neuropsychologyst can help understand your (or your child's) needs and create a plan that helps meet them and builds on your strengths.

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