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Resource Roundup: Neurodiversity & Mental Health

This month's CAYRgiver Circle group was full of discussions about how neuronormativity can be detrimental to the mental health of neurodivergent kids and adults, and what we can do to support ND kids' mental health and well being. Because let's face it -- it can be traumatic to be neurodivergent in a world that was built for neurotypical brains. The good news is: neurodiversity-affirming care is trauma-informed care. Compare the two images below. Can you see how they are interrelated?

The trauma-informed "wheel of practice" on the left was adapted from Thompson & Marsh (2022). It centers culture, history, and gender-- positioning intersectionality as the lens through which we view the wheel's "spokes." Instead of a linear hierarchy, the five principles can be viewed as a dynamic process:

  • ensuring physical & emotional safety

  • establishing trust & respecting boundaries

  • leveraging peer support

  • focusing on collaboration instead of control

  • prioritizing empowerment & self-advocacy

On the right, we have Sonny Jane Wise's eleven Core Principles of Neurodiversity Affirming Practice. While it's not meant to be used in a linear or hierarchical way, the author states that they placed intersectionality at the top for a reason -- it's the most important principle.

Can you imagine a world where these principles were the "norm"?

What would it look like if as a society, we reframed our expectations of what is "normal," adapting our systems and environments to accommodate all types of support needs?

The image below from Neurowild sparked a rich discussion about compliance-based approaches in traditional education environments, and how that can negatively impact a ND child's overall well-being. We talked about how this is a systemic issue with conventional education, both public and private, and not necessarily the fault of individual people who are working in schools.

So... what can we do to support kids' mental health and well-being, no matter what school setting they are in? How can we move the needle toward neurodiversity-affirming practices, when many of them are in conflict with the status quo? Here are some ideas:

  1. "Trauma-informed practices" has been a buzzword for several years, and many schools and other organizations have invested in professional development on this topic. Perhaps by relating trauma-informed principles to neurodiversity-affirming principles, there would be more buy-in from staff and administrators.

  2. Embracing monotropism and creating space for interest-based "attention tunnels" can make a big impact on how someone perceives their own self-efficacy. Want to know more about how this can be applied in different contexts? Check out for a list of resources.

  3. One of the biggest protective factors for mental health is self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone, and can look different from day to day. Check out this (non-exhaustive) brainstorm for what self-care can be:

Last but not least, some book recommendations! Here is a list of books for all ages that we compiled for this month's topic.

Do you know of a book that we missed? Comment below and let us know!

Finally, just a reminder that we are not mental health providers, and we can only speak from our own lived experience. If you have mental health concerns for yourself or a loved one, please seek professional support. Here are some resources we've gathered:

Until next time, take CAYR!

-Erica & the CAYR BoD


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