Motherly Collective

Raising a neurodivergent child has made me a more creative, think outside-the-box parent. In some ways, I am a neurodivergent parent. And despite the challenges it brings, it’s changed me for the better.

It’s been more than eight years since I’ve entered the world of neurodiversity and I’m learning and growing alongside my son every day. Here are a few ways in which this whole journey has altered me as a parent and as a human.   

5 ways I’ve changed since having a neurodivergent child

I’m less judgmental

If I witness a child behaving out of character with a parent nearby, I rarely think it’s poor parenting. I’ve been there. I remember a birthday party at a trampoline park years ago where the kids were all jumping and running with excitement and my son had his face pushed against a mat in the corner which was vibrating intensely from god-knows-what. Nothing I did could distract him from that part of the mat for more than a few seconds. A mother that I didn’t know very well came over and struck up a conversation about how she could never remember to bring those socks with the sticky stuff on the soles required for jumping, and that she had several pairs at her house. That simple comment and distraction saved the moment. 

It doesn’t take much. Consider who the child may be, things we don’t know about the child and most importantly, the parent’s state of mind. Disapproving looks and snide comments on how to parent won’t help. Offer a smile, a distraction if it feels right and MYOB.

I see different uses for everyday things

Mini M&M’s aren’t just addictive, but can initially be used as rewards for good behavior and learning. Headphones aren’t just for listening to music, but can be useful to reduce noise when it becomes overwhelming. Hairbrushes can serve to calm unregulated bodies. 

Raising a neurodivergent child has taught me that common objects have more than one use or application. It’s made me a more creative thinker overall. Remember MacGyver? I can identify. 

I’m a better communicator

My son has been in speech therapy since he was about 2 years old. Back-and-forth communication was always a challenge, and it’s something he continues to address today. If it’s a topic he’s interested in— the weather, football, certain musicians, etc.—it’s not an issue. But keeping him engaged in less desirable topics is a different ballgame. 

Over the years, I’ve learned to keep the conversation going by avoiding yes and no questions, making observations to prompt more conversation and indirectly making requests such as, “Whoa, the TV is loud!,” rather than, “Can you turn that down?” Also, when my son is hellbent on his POV, I often turn to stories. Offering stories that provide a more rich perspective and narrative can help.

I’m less attached to a particular outcome, and more invested in the process

Having a neurodivergent child forces me to be more present by addressing current needs and putting processes in place to support those needs. Taking time and deciding on the best process to implement can be difficult work based on research, trial and error and your family’s schedule. If you trust your decision on a particular process, the outcome becomes less important.  

I welcome people more readily into my life 

I’ve met so many people because my son is neurodivergent. People I likely would never have met such as play therapists, music therapists, speech and physical therapy students, developmental pediatricians and others. Despite how different these people are, there is a common mindset among them, and it’s an easy one to get onboard with: live your best life. These professionals have dedicated their talents and creativity for kids to reach their full potential. 

There’s nothing more intimate and personal than the relationship you have with your child. Seeing others support, rally, pivot and celebrate milestones with warmth and authenticity have broken down walls I didn’t realize I had. They have shifted my own mindset when it comes to people in general. When I meet someone, I assume positive intent unless proven otherwise.

Becoming a neurodivergent parent didn’t happen overnight. It takes time, hindsight and a tremendous amount of thought—and trial and error. There are amazing days and difficult days. But if there’s one thing that sticks out to me, it’s that the experience of raising a neurodivergent child has fundamentally changed the way I think and act.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.