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Understanding your neurodivergence

by | Uncategorized

The link between neurodiversity and mental health in adulthood is well documented. There are a number of reasons why neurodivergent people in particular experience a higher likelihood of pervasive mental health illnesses in adulthood, from a lack of understanding in their school days around their neurodivergence, late diagnosis or not being diagnosed until their adulthood, greater incidences of bullying during their school years or a lack of understanding from their workplace. 

Often neurodivergent people feel “other” and this otherness can have a significant impact on their self-esteem and lasting mental health. The otherness can make you feel like there is something wrong with you, like you are broken but you don’t know how to make yourself “better”, fit the mould, be like everyone else. But the real reason that you feel you don’t fit in is that you are neurodivergent in a neurotypical world. The world was never made for people with your type of brain and you work hard on a daily basis to fit into it as well as you can, often without knowing the impact that this has on you and your mental health.  

As neurodivergent people we often don’t know about our profiles, what works for us and what strategies support us. In our school years we often spend so much time trying to fit in we don’t get to discover who we are and the positives of having a neurodivergent brain. Any conversation around our learning is often framed in the negative, “she’s not passed the phonics assessment”, “he can’t stay in his chair long enough to learn”, “we need to put them in a social skills group”. This underlying negative framing of a child’s educational journey can have lasting impact, and often make children see their neurodivergence as a negative which brings with it low self-esteem.  

It is vital for us to educate our neurodivergent children about neurodiversity and their own skills set. If our children know who they are under the neurodiversity umbrella it gives them a better understanding of their particular strengths and the things they may find challenging so they don’t internalise it as a problem with one’s self. This then opens doors for our children to belong to a community where they can be their authentic selves. They don’t have to mask their neurodivergence in these communities and as we know, community is a resource for combating mental health illnesses. They can develop an identity knowing their strengths and difficulties and most importantly knowing that they are not the odd one out anymore, that they have a great cohort of amazing people to look to with similar brains to their own.  

This is why, at The Levels School, we have created a programme to help students to understand their own neurodivergent profile and what strategies and resources work for them. We then give the students the skills to own their neurodivergence by teaching them self-advocacy skills leaving them feeling empowered to talk confidently about their strengths it brings and knowing what they are entitled to under the law.  

The world is set up for neurotypical people, however, if we are able to support children when they are young in learning about their profiles and the strengths it can bring to society then it is my hope that in the future less neurodivergent people will have such pervasive mental health illnesses into adulthood.