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Neurodivergent people are some of the most creative and fascinating folks you will ever meet, as their brains work in unique (and sometimes unconventional) ways. Defined as “having a brain that works differently from the average or ‘neurotypical’ person,” neurodivergence covers various medical diagnoses, including ADD/ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Down’s syndrome, and more.
While children with this brain style are still regular kids (if such a thing as “regular” exists, since each child is different from the last), they may express themselves in other ways or require a different kind of support or communication style. To help these grandkids of ours best succeed – and to help our relationships with them thrive – I have done some research and have compiled this list of the 13 best ways to love and support your neurodiverse grandchild:
1. Educate yourself
Take the initiative to learn about your grandchild’s unique neurology by diving into books, attending workshops, or consulting experts. It’s like learning the secret recipe to their incredible mind!
2. Foster their passion
Find that spark that lights up your grandchild’s eyes and either ask questions or partake in it yourself. Whether it’s collecting leaves, writing, drawing, or building intricate structures, encourage these interests wholeheartedly. (This will also strengthen your bond.)
3. Create a comfortable space
Craft a nook in your home where your grandchild can retreat when they need to. Picture a cozy corner with their favorite books, sensory tools, or art supplies—it’s Grandma’s house, after all, so it ought to feel like home.
4. Patience, patience
Remember the golden rule of being a grandma: patience is paramount. When they need extra time to process or respond, let the clock tick. It’s time well spent.
5. Speak their language (literally)
If your grandchild communicates best through pictures, music, or touch, join them in that world. Doing so will not only strengthen your bond, but it is a beautiful way to say, “I’m here, and I understand.”
6. Be their biggest cheerleader and not just their shield
Advocate for your neurodivergent grandchild’s needs, but also let them take the stage when they’re ready. Applaud loudly, especially when they’re advocating for themselves.
7. Celebrate those ‘a-ha’ moments
When they see the world in a way that’s uniquely theirs, don’t just notice—celebrate it. It’s like watching an artist paint their masterpiece. Who says that a “typical” brain is best? The stuff that these special kids come up with is truly magnificent!
8. Unconditional love with no strings attached
Your steady, unwavering love is their rock in a turbulent sea – make sure they know that. Grandma’s love doesn’t hinge on ‘fitting in’ but rather on being themselves and celebrating their uniqueness.
When they share, lean in and listen like they are imparting the world’s most precious secret (because, at that moment, they are). In this fast-paced, plugged-in world, it is easy to get distracted, so turn off all the noise around you and really listen to what your grands are telling you.
10. Breathe in and breathe out – together
We all need a way that we can unwind and turn off our brains – especially if you have a brain that is constantly going and never seems to slow. Find calming activities that you can do together – like gardening or yoga – which can be peaceful for them and soul-soothing for you.
11. Offer choices, big and small
If the schedule permits, let your grand choose the day’s activity or what you will have for lunch. When you’re a kid, you mostly have to go with the flow, so by doing this, you are working to empower them and show that their voice matters.
12. Stay in sync with their parents
Consistency and routine are vital for kids with a neurodivergent brain, so try to stay in step with the parents’ strategies and goals to give your grandchild a little more harmony at home.
13. Embrace the happy chaos
When life gets messy (as life with kids does), roll with it. After all, wasn’t it a little chaos that brought some of the world’s greatest masterpieces to life? (Yes – the answer is yes!)
Our neurodiverse grandchildren are a splendid blend of spice and spirit, challenging norms and brightening our world with their unique light. Loving them is a journey, an art form, and one of the grandest adventures we, as grandmas, are privileged to embark upon. Here’s to the boundless love we give and the remarkable lessons we receive in return.