It can be hard to talk with a child who is neurodiverse. When you make time to talk with them about meaningful topics, it can improve their mental health and deepen your relationship.
A broad term referring to people whose brains work differently or have developed in a different way. Someone who is neurodiverse has unique strengths and struggles from people with more typical brain development.
- Neurodiverse children might have trouble talking about their experiences or feelings. They may need some help putting their thoughts together. That’s why it’s so important to make time to talk.
- Neurodiverse children may not have the same language skills, learning abilities or knack for social communication as other kids. They also may not start casual conversations; this can lead to fewer chances to talk with others.
- They still have thoughts and feelings about what’s happening around them and can still develop mental wellness skills. They may appreciate the chance to connect with you.
- If a child normally doesn’t have much to say, their caregivers may not engage them in conversation. When efforts aren’t made to connect, caregivers and children lose opportunities to learn more about each other or deepen their relationships.
Neurodiverse children benefit when the adults in their lives engage them in conversation. These talks may:
- Improve a child’s conversational and social skills
- Increase a child’s access to social support and help them feel less isolated
- Encourage children to share their thoughts and opinions
- Boost self-esteem and promote self-exploration among children who haven’t been asked for their opinions before
- Improve communication and relationship between caregivers and children
- Help caregivers understand their children’s concerns, problems and thought processes
- Make it easier for caregivers and children to talk about difficult topics in the future
In addition, we know these conversations help improve kids’ mental health. We want children to talk about their problems so that caregivers can help them find solutions.
To encourage communication, below are some conversation starters for caregivers. Download them to ask your child a variety of questions to get them thinking and talking.
If your child isn’t open to these at first, that’s OK. Stick with them. Give your child time to get used to them. You might even ask them what questions they would like to ask you.
Here are some ideas to help you use our conversation starters to improve communication with your neurodiverse child:
- Don’t be discouraged at first if your child’s answer is “I don’t know.” Give your child a little more time to answer. You can even answer the question yourself to model a response that’s appropriate.
- Sometimes it’s not the question, but it’s the way it is asked that can be hard. Start with closed-ended questions or questions that have options for responses to get them talking. These types of questions may work better at first. For example, asking yes or no questions or providing 2-3 responses to choose from. Would you rather questions can also be a great option.
- Turn mealtime into conversation time. Have everyone at the table answer the same question. It may feel forced at first, but your child may gradually get used to sharing information that they normally wouldn’t say.
- Start with your child’s interests or something they know a lot about.
Once your child gets used to talking, keep it up! The idea is to create a regular routine of talking about their feelings, opinions and more.