Between 2009 and 2017, 17% of children between the ages of 3 and 7 years old were diagnosed with a developmental disability. If one of those children was yours, you probably felt a mix of strong emotions - worried, bewildered, relieved, overwhelmed, unprepared, curious.
Whether your child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, or another cognitive disability, they may now consider themselves "neuroatypical". But being atypical is not always a bad thing. Your child's diagnosis can lead to a better understanding of themselves and may even contribute to amazing things they will accomplish in life.
Keep reading to find out more about the definition of neuroatypical, how it can change a child's life, and some of the incredible people who have accomplished great things partially due to their neuroatypical diagnosis.
What Does Neuroatypical Mean?
Neuroatypical is a relatively recent term used as a blanket statement to describe people who previously would have been described as having autism.
People on the autism spectrum all experience the symptoms differently. They may have sensory sensitivity, repetitive behaviors, an obsessive nature, and trouble empathizing, or they could only have some of these symptoms but not others. While the term autism generalizes all of these symptoms into one case, neuroatypical leaves room for anyone who may differ from the norm in their neurological process.
When a child receives a neuroatypical diagnosis, a treatment plan specific to their needs can be designed. The following areas can be more accurately addressed:
- Response to verbal communication
- Awareness of thoughts and feelings of self and others
- Social awareness
- Sensory triggers
Treatment for a neuroatypical disorder is not meant to change who your child is but give them coping tools to handle everyday life. Check out this helpful article for an explanation of some of the different kinds of child therapy available for neuroatypical children.
Life As and With a Neuroatypical Child
Even with a diagnosis and treatment plan, it can still feel overwhelming to imagine life for your neuroatypical child. They will have to navigate classrooms and workplaces where their needs may not always be met or understood. They may have trouble making lasting relationships. They may show incredible intelligence and skill in certain areas but still struggle in others.
But it's far from all bad news. As you watch your neuroatypical child grow, you will begin to see all the strengths they have as well.
Many people on the autism spectrum have an incredible affinity for numbers that neurotypical people can't even imagine. Others have the ability to remember small details that other people would gloss over. Because of autism's obsessive traits, many neuroatypical people become experts in their fields - from the arts to the sciences.
Give your child encouragement in their interests and support in the areas they're not as comfortable in, and you will build a rewarding relationship with them for years to come.
Famous Neuroatypical People
There have been successful neuroatypical people in all different fields, and many of them credit their cognitive differences as a contributing factor to their success. Let's take a look at some of the famous neuroatypical people you may recognize:
1. Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish climate activist who is known around the globe for her 'School Strike for Climate' protests; which sparked a worldwide phenomenon. She is also well known for her direct challenges to world leaders to take immediate action against climate change.
Greta has also spoken publicly about her Asperger's syndrome diagnosis, calling it a superpower. While some have tried to criticize her for it, she has become more open about it because she knows that, out of ignorance, people see it as an illness or something negative.
2. Alonzo Clemons
Alonzo Clemons is an American sculptor with a developmental disability. His mental development has been considered to be that of a six-year-old, but his ability to sculpt is far beyond most artists'. At first, doctors didn't believe he'd ever live without assistance, but his art has provided an income for him.
He sculpts any animal he sees out of clay in surprising detail without ever receiving formal training, and he is believed to be a savant.
3. Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah's autism made life quite difficult for her as a child because she was left in a panic after public events. Medical professionals recommended that she be medicated and institutionalized, but she saw a better future for herself.
She's known for her roles in Kill Bill, Wall Street, and Splash. She's still acting today in a comedy series (The Now) with Dave Franco but stays conscious of her needs with a quiet home life.
4. Daniel Tammet
Daniel Tammet is a famous essayist, novelist, and translator especially known for his memoir about growing up with an Asperger's diagnosis. He has a prodigal skill for learning languages and has turned his experience as a neuroatypical person into a learning opportunity for everyone who reads his books.
5. Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd didn't receive a diagnosis until his wife recommended that he seek professional help, but now he credits his symptoms with helping him reach his fame. His obsession has always been with ghosts and law enforcement which led to his success with the Ghostbusters franchise.
6. Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin forever changed livestock treatment in the U.S. with her work as an animal behaviorist. She was one of the first prominent adult figures to disclose her autism diagnosis. Her sensitivity to sensory stimulants helped her identify environmental triggers for livestock and develop solutions to livestock anxieties.
Playing to Your Strengths
With the proper care and encouragement, your child can turn their neuroatypical diagnosis into a successful and satisfying life. Never give up on finding ways for their differences to set them apart in the best way.
Do you want to learn more about the best ways to support your neuroatypical child physically and emotionally? Book a consultation with one of our experts today!