Navigating disappointment: Support your child through struggles

When kids face disappointment, your instinct is to fix things or quickly make it better by offering other options. The truth is, your child isn’t looking for you to “fix” anything. They are expressing a desire to connect about that disappointment and to know that you sense their angst.

Understanding their perspective.

Imagine your child at a crowded mall, nearing the end of a long day. They’ve walked through multiple stores, waited in lines, handled many (and I mean many) transitions, and now they see the entrance to a bowling alley. All of a sudden, they tell you that they want to go bowling. You check and all of the time slots are taken. Your child is exhausted and the overwhelming feeling of disappointment strikes resulting in a tantrum that you were not prepared for. While this situation may not seem like a “big deal” to you as an adult, it is all-consuming for your child. Your go-to methods of rationalizing, explaining the reason you can’t go bowling today, or offering other places to visit simply aren’t working. So, what’s the solution?

The language of validation.

Remember that all roads lead to regulation. When a nervous system is drained, there is no way that rational thought can occur. During these moments, what you say (and actually don’t say) is incredibly valuable. Being at a loss for words is completely okay because your silence and presence are all that’s needed. Communicating in a way that validates while holding a boundary is also helpful because it supportively shows your child that you are in tune with their discomfort. You are not going to prove your parental authority. You are making a decision for them since moments of dysregulation are not the time to teach or explain how choice works.

Here are some phrases you might find useful:

✓ "I see the bowling place too."
✓ "It does look fun."
✓ "I know you want to go in and today it's full."
✓ “I get it, we’ve had a very long day.”

Notice the absence of "no," "can't," or "but." You are acknowledging your child’s view, respecting their vulnerability, and working through the discomfort with them.

Be there, physically and emotionally.

Going back to presence, it is the most powerful support you can offer. Your nervous system will soothe the dysregulation of your child because, as the adult, you have the skill to welcome the catastrophic emotions and take them on - relieving the stress of “dealing with it” from your child. This is not to say that your role is to quickly make it better. The goal is for you to handle what your child can’t right now, showing them that they can get past this intense disappointment. The challenge for you as the parent is to remain regulated yourself and not take what your child says personally, especially when you hear that “you’re the worst ever” and “we never do anything I want to do.”

Language you can use.

Kids are very hard to reach with words during instances of despair. Wait for an opening and use it as a strategic opportunity with simple, direct language:

These statements emphasize that you understand what unfairness is like, create a shared experience, and move away from correcting misbehavior or instructing your child to “make a better choice.”

Final thoughts.

By shifting how you show up, you change your language, and changing your language means that you are connecting in a valuable way. The value comes with guiding kids to handle disappointment without looking for external reinforcement or a distraction that will prevent them from feeling discomfort. The goal isn’t to prevent our children from ever becoming dysregulated. The goal is to ensure they know, deep in their core, they are supported during their own despair, and can begin to successfully manage unfavorable situations.

Beyond the "if": Communicate intentions without ultimatums

For parents of Autistic and ADHD kids, everyday tasks that require following instructions can sometimes become challenging episodes. Neurodivergent children often perceive and process information differently, which can lead to misunderstandings. Communication that’s misaligned with your child’s linguistic, social-emotional, and cognitive skills then causes disarray. Rather than working on compliance or making children “listen,” we are going to address their comprehension needs, gathering clues about their perspective. Remember, we are not manipulating behavior. We are connecting certain events/situations and successes to deepen our understanding of the child’s experience.

Understanding the challenge with conditional language.

Conditional language, especially the use of "if," can be problematic for neurodivergent kids. To them, it sounds like an ultimatum or a threat, triggering anxiety or putting them into a frozen state of compliance. What may appear as listening on the outside as the child (finally) stands still is an absolute fear response on the inside. It depletes resources and your child is processing very little or really no information at all because the brain’s survival mode has kicked in.

For example, saying "If you don't finish your homework, you can't play outside," or “First you have to finish your homework, and then you can play outside,” might be intended as a motivational strategy. In reality, no matter how you dress it up, it’s still an ultimatum, and a sense of overwhelm floods the nervous system. The message you’re sending is that “homework,” or whatever the task is at the moment, is this painful occurrence and what comes after is what you “earn” following completion. Seemingly harmless, it leads your child to always expecting a reward. A 6-year-old recently said to me after a particularly challenging session, “I worked so hard and it was all for nothing!”

Internal motivation and a growth mindset comes from viewing a “hard thing” as interesting. Looking at a problem, failing, and retracing your steps to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what adjustments can be made to attempt once more. We don’t want to teach our kids that success is only equivalent with rewards, gold stars, or bribes. We do want to embrace the fact that overcoming something difficult builds grit and gritty kids take on obstacles because they choose to.

Strategies for clear communication.

Using words that acknowledge: Replace conditional phrases by staying in the moment. For instance, instead of “If you clean your room, we can go to the park,” use “I know you’re thinking about the park, right now we are putting your toys/books/ideas back in their spots.” This phrasing acknowledges your child’s thought and desire to go to the park while bringing them back to what you’re asking - without promises or threats.

Clarifying comments and/or questions: Instead of correcting behavior, embody a state of wonder. Depending on your child’s language skills, you can start with a comment that tunes them into what you’re observing, “I notice a mountain of toys. Looks like it’s hard to get started.” Clean-up is a big executive functioning task and telling a child to simply “clean up” doesn’t take into consideration all of the steps required to do so, such as:

✓ know where to start
✓ understand how to organize in piles or based on categories
✓ forgo other distractions (internal and external)
✓ stay with this boring task until completion
✓ remember where all of the items belong

Additionally, asking a child whether they understand the reason a change is needed can empower them to consider their actions and remind them of certain rules and boundaries. Questions like, “Do you know how come I’m standing in front of you?" can help the child reflect on the current situation in the context of the guidance you’re providing.

Staying in the moment: What about redirecting as a managing behavior technique? Let that one go too! The reason is that a “redirect” to something else completely misses your child’s intention. It also focuses solely on the adult’s desired outcome. It doesn’t mean that you follow every single idea the second it comes up. It does mean that you notice what your child has in mind and figure out the reason they are leading you in a particular direction. Is what you’re asking of them too much? Are they at capacity? Is telling them they “have to” finish really worth it right now?

Cultivating a supportive environment.

Creating a supportive environment that respects your neurodivergent child's unique way of processing information can make following directives less stressful for everyone. This involves consistency and understanding that the process itself is more powerful than simply wanting an outcome. By adjusting our approach and how we communicate, we empower ourselves and our kids to succeed.

Final thoughts.

By moving away from conditional language and ultimatums, parents create a space that adheres to safety needs and still holds a supportive boundary. Instead of focusing on compliance or a reward/consequence system, step into a process that confirms your unwavering presence and strengthens your parent-child relationship.

Understanding dysregulation: A parent's guide

As parents, watching your Autistic or ADHD child with frustration and dysregulation can be heart-wrenching. You want to help, to soothe, to calm - and yet, despite your best efforts, nothing works. It's like they're caught in a storm you can't quiet.

The nature of the storm.

It’s important to understand that, when children become highly agitated, they cannot access any tools or strategies for regulating on their own. The reaction isn’t a conscious choice. It’s a manifestation of overwhelm that they cannot control - at least not yet. This means the primary responsibility for maintaining a regulated state falls on the adults in their lives who will show up no matter what.

Presence over problem solving.

When your child is using harsh language or yelling that you’re “the worst” parent, your instinct might be to defend yourself. Unfortunately, when your brain switches to defense mode, frustrations escalate because connection is missing. What’s needed most in that moment are not solutions - those are easy. The challenge is remaining present and regulated with the following underlying offer: I am here for you and our relationship will not falter.

Practical steps to take:

Stay physically present: Show your child that you are with them through your body language, facial expressions, and non-verbal communicative gestures (like a nod). Make sure you're signaling safety, not defense or anxiety.

Listen and acknowledge: When there is a break in their outburst, let them know you hear them by saying, "I hear everything you’re saying." This acknowledgment can be incredibly powerful.

Offer reassurance: Follow up with your offer, "I’m here to give you what you need," which provides them with a sense of security. It also lets your child know that, as the parent, you are still in your role of providing basic needs (safety and security).

Language you can use.

When your child is in a state of dysregulation and demands something like a phone or game as a condition for “calming down,” interpret it as an expression of an unmet need rather than a manipulation.

These responses show that you understand their distress while also staying with them through the discomfort. You’re further avoiding explanations that will cause power struggles and increasing agitation. What you can offer is one option at a time that you know is particularly soothing. An important piece to note here is that your child can continue to reject all of your suggestions - it doesn’t mean that they are rejecting you. Here’s how you can frame your suggestion:

“I’m thinking your stuffie could help.” OR “I’m thinking turning down the lights could help.”
*you’re adjusting the immediate environment*

“I’m going to bring my idea with me.”
*you’re telling them that you’ll be right back also giving yourself time to regain composure*
*make sure that you come back with a stuffie, or 2 water bottles so you are modeling with your actions rather than your words*

“I’ll move back to give your body space.”
*instead of - I won’t let you hit me*

After the storm.

Once everyone is regulated, you can slowly start to relate to your child’s emotional state. Remember that, on the outside, the crisis has passed. On the inside, the nervous system has not yet regained its neutral state. Depending on your child’s language skills, you can reflect on the experience with, “I wonder what that was like for you.” Posing a statement helps to initiate the process of self-awareness. You’re also aligning yourself with your child and opening up an intimate conversation. Depending on your child’s response, you will mirror it back to them with, “It sounds like for you it was…[scary, hard, sad].” Give them a moment to take the reflection in and follow it up with the same word/phrase for you, “It was…[scary, hard, sad] for me too.” WOW! Now your child knows you really get it.

All roads lead to regulation.

Navigating your child's emotional challenges isn't about fixing their struggles for them. It’s about supporting them through their toughest moments. A parent asked recently how they could tell what’s dysregulation and what’s “bad behavior.” My response was, “let go of the notion that it’s bad behavior and always come back to regulation.”

Final thoughts.

I want to leave you with a quote from Dr. Ross Greene’s The Explosive Child, “Solving problems is much easier if a person has the ability to think through solutions.”

Navigating choices with ADHD: Simplify decision-making for your child

Children with ADHD are characterized by impulsive actions and inconsistencies in performance. Parents often ask, “How can he complete this task one day, but not the next?” ADHD kids also struggle navigating their thoughts and the intensities of their emotional capacities. This dynamic makes decision making quite difficult, filled with stress and frustration.

Understanding the challenge behind "too many choices."

Many children with ADHD experience what can be described as “decision overload.” When faced with multiple options, they often resort to saying, “I don't care,” or “yeah,” which lets me know that the child hasn’t processed all of the information given. First clue: the information is too much to sort through in their mind and they cannot foresee their future selves doing “that” option. Additionally, when kids respond with “But it’s my choice!” the phrase may seem defiant or dismissive of your intentions. In actuality, these are coping mechanisms that reveal overwhelm.

Having too many choices (yes, even deciding between two) doesn't represent freedom or what you may have heard as a need for control. The choice paralysis is also not about a lack of care or refusal to make a decision. It is about the difficulty in processing multiple streams of information simultaneously. Clinically, it is a verbal working memory challenge, which is in the executive function skills realm.

Simplifying choices to empower.

Here’s a short example. During a session that included a more complex play scene, one ADHD 5-year-old quickly became overwhelmed when the elements didn't fit together or when suggestions for change were made. His immediate response was, “I don't care,” signaling that the task felt too challenging. Recognizing this as a moment for us to reflect, I took on the cognitive load for him and adjusted my position. Instead of offering multiple suggestions or pressing for a solution, I presented a single, manageable option that was within his individualized skillset. This adjustment allowed him to immediately reduce the feeling of overwhelm. He considered the idea from my perspective and replied with the following comment, "Oh that does work."

Strategic choice reduction.

Reducing the number of choices available doesn't mean removing autonomy or control. It's about structuring the decision-making environment so that it becomes more accessible and less daunting. Consider the language being used because when you praise with, “you made a good choice,” the underlying meaning is that the other option was a “bad choice.” Also, the language is going to vary based on each child’s capacity to process all the words. It’s the message and your intention that stay the same.

Final thoughts.

Understanding the unique challenges faced by children with ADHD in decision-making scenarios allows parents and caregivers to better support their needs. By simplifying choices and taking on the “heavy lifting,” as I call it, we can help ADHD kids navigate the complexities of information processing with more confidence. This perspective reduces the stress load by slowly forming problem solving skills while creating successful experiences. The goal is to then connect successes, bring them to your child’s awareness, and provide them with increased opportunities to practice being successful!

How to help your neurodivergent child embrace change

Adapting to change is a universal challenge. For ND kids, the stakes can feel much higher, especially when it comes to personal milestones like birthdays.

I recently had the privilege of working with an almost 9-year-old who was grappling with the idea of getting older and all the changes it entailed. Throughout our session, we explored this challenge and discovered ways to make the process a bit less daunting. Let me share what I learned here.

Reflecting on being 8.

I have two sliding white boards set up in the office. In the center of one board, I wrote "what it was like being 8" so we can pull together some ideas from the past year. We sectioned off the year into 3 categories: fun, learning, and hard things. 

Starting with fun, this boy recalled the trips he took with his family, the parties he attended, and of course, LegoLand. The learning section included math and spelling skills, a spinning hook kick in martial arts, and making kale chips. All instances that were personal and relevant to him. Then, came the hardest one of all.

It was first met with "Oh no, the hard one!" and then a pause. He took a moment and realized that the hardest thing he did while being 8-years-old was putting his face underwater in summer camp. Bravo!

We turned the collection of words into images and he realized that there are 3 different versions of him: "This is me having fun, this is me learning, and this is me doing something hard," he said to mom. 

The way we examined his outlook on that past year allowed him to appreciate all he had achieved. More importantly, a self-awareness component emerged as he was able to see himself as a multifaceted individual capable of experiencing joy, acquiring new skills, and overcoming obstacles. It was a self-realization and recognition of his bravery and growth.

Envisioning life at 9.

Then we turned our attention to the future, we discussed his hopes and challenges for being 9. In the center of another board, I wrote "what it will be like turning 9" so that we'd have a side by side comparison. 

He immediately wrote down something he wished for in terms of a birthday gift. It was so interesting to witness because younger neurodivergent kids mainly wish for tangible objects. Another item on the list was a challenge he came up with, "trying new foods." 

The following conversation transpired:

My goal with our conversation around the word "try" and its practical implications was to spark a deeper understanding of action versus intention. I wanted to highlight how language shapes our perception of ability and effort.

Embracing change with humor.

Change still remains hard for this soon to be 9-year-old, and yet he is beginning to understand and reflect on how different parts of him exist. Rather than telling him that he should think of change as a good thing, we are working on figuring out what happens during periods of change. It doesn't hurt to insert a little humor too!

Language you can use.

When helping your child adapt to change, focus on language that encourages effort, rather than words that praise. Instead of saying "you have to do a good job," frame challenges as options they can make, such as "you can figure out how to explore new foods." This emphasizes autonomy and control over their experiences. We can also help ND kids gain a sense of wonder and curiosity with comments like, “I wonder what can happen when…” to open up a possibility they may not have thought about. 

Language bridges together successes and with each success you gain insights into self-efficacy.

What can I do if my child always says "no"?

As a parent of a neurodivergent child, you've likely encountered the resistant “NO!” more times than you can count. It’s a scenario that fuels continued conflict, loss of control on both sides, and feelings of immediate rejection.

What if I told you that there's a way to navigate this response, understand the meaning behind the “no,” and transform it into a meaningful conversation?

The power of "no."

First, it's crucial to recognize the importance of the word "no" in your child's vocabulary. It's not a barrier; it's a communication tool. When your child says "no," they're expressing their autonomy, their preferences, and sometimes, their anxieties or uncertainties.

Breaking down the "no."

When faced with a "no," we want to dissect it. The language that follows your child’s “no” will depend on their individual comprehension needs. Generally speaking, we want to acknowledge the initial response with phrases like, “I hear your ‘no’” or “I get it. You’re telling me “not right now.”

You can also include a comment about different ideas, turning perspective taking (them thinking like you) into perspective seeking (you thinking like them). Here's a script that will help: "In your mind what I'm telling you is unfair. I definitely see the unfairness. I'm wondering what else feels unfair."

With the acknowledgement comes an understanding that the “no” holds a lot of power. And you’re not asking your child to let it go (at least not all of it). For other kids, you want to figure out where the “no” is coming from with a statement that brings in a sense of wonder: “I’m wondering what part you’re saying ‘no’ to.”

Now, this poses an inquiry that seeks clarification and your child’s perspective first. It shows them that you’re not jumping to change their stance, you’re getting curious. You are also inviting your child to think critically about their response and identify the specific aspect they're uncomfortable with.

For example, if you suggest going to the park and receive a “no,” your child might not be rejecting the entire idea. Perhaps the "no" is meant for just one element, like the time of day or the particular park you’ve chosen.

Another great example is when a child says “no” to a new game or activity. That “no” is filled with uncertainties, such as “I don’t know what’s expected of me,” “Will I be any good at this game,” “What if I don’t understand it,” “I don’t like it because it’s new and new things are way too hard.”

You can turn the “no” into a moment of curiosity by taking that worried answer and shifting your own perspective with, “It sounds like you’re not sure” and “I’m thinking this new game could be hard.” Again, we are acknowledging, holding space, and giving enough time for your child to process this novel insight. The follow up is then an invitation into a unique opportunity of “let’s figure it out” and “I can show you the idea…we’ll see how it works.”

Setting boundaries and guardrails.

Understanding your child's "no" isn't about giving in; it's about providing a framework within which they can make sound decisions. This structure is vital for neurodivergent children who thrive with clear expectations that match their skills, as well as supportive boundaries. Remember, rather than responding with your own quick “no,” you start with a “yes.”

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t I being permissive? Shouldn’t I just tell them, “too bad, you’re doing it anyway?” Don’t they have to get used to also hearing “no”? Not quite!

By engaging with your child’s "no” you’re continuing to build trust in your relationship. You are also showing your child that they can trust in themselves. You know that feeling when you sense that something is a little “off” and your gut is hinting that you should probably say, “no thanks”? That is you trusting in you. It’s based on experience. You want your child to have that same sense of trust.

In essence, the goal isn't to eliminate the "no." The goal is to understand it and work with it, creating a supportive environment where your child feels listened to and valued.

A new approach to writing for Autistic and ADHD students

Organizing ideas is a major challenge for Autistic and ADHD kids. 

The skill of writing down your thoughts is connected to how you narrate play scenes and retell stories. Schools give a topic and then parents are faced with the struggle of figuring out the “how to” for written homework. 

Static strategies in the forms of graphs and charts are linear, ineffective in forming the executive function skills needed to handle challenging assignments. We want to foster dynamic thinking that allows students to creatively approach a problem and learn to manage complexity.

The struggle of dynamic thinking: A neurodivergent child's hurdle.

When I first begin working with an Autistic or ADHD child, I am assessing their ways of thinking.  I’m looking for how they initiate ideas, connect pieces of information together, and use their resources to problem solve. Many neurodivergent children gravitate toward patterns with predictable beginnings and endings. 

Anything that veers off slightly is felt as an overwhelm because of its novelty and complexity. What results can be a shutdown state, like hiding, or explosive comments like, “You’re cheating!” and “That’s not fair!” The struggle isn’t a behavior, it is the brain’s perception of the unexpected. 

In these situations I let parents know that, even though what I’m asking seems simple, their child hasn’t had the opportunity to be guided through a dynamic process. 

How do we show neurodivergent kids that ideas can be bent, molded, and varied? 

We change the “how.”

How post-its can revolutionize learning in ND kids.

Let’s talk about the concept of writing. Written expression is one of the most challenging executive function tasks as it requires multiple areas of knowledge. For a neurodivergent child, being given a blank piece of paper, or one with a couple of boxes and told to “write a sentence and give details” is equivalent to asking them to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. (Hint: You should have started with E=MC2). 

In comes the post-it note. 

That tiny, versatile stationary that’s been in your drawer. With an array of colors and sizes, post-its serve as visual anchors. When we first come up with ideas for a play scene or a narrative, one post-it is placed in the center of a space. (I say a space because it could be on a wall, the floor, or that blank piece of paper). 

Then comes the epic task of “Tell me what you know about [insert topic here].” In the beginning, most of the writing falls on me. Why? Because it’s hard enough to generate related ideas. Each idea is on a separate note and forms a circle around the main topic. As kids begin to notice how much they actually know, they become even more intrigued and internally motivated. 

I’m wondering how we can put these 2 ideas together” is now more tangible. There is a relief from having to keep all of those thoughts in your mind (as manipulating information in our heads is a working memory challenge). I had an ADHD 2nd grader take a look at how his idea map emerged, take a literal step back, and say, “Oh! It’s all connected!

Breaking down barriers with small squares.

Consider the executive function required to write a story or organize thoughts coherently. For a neurodivergent child, this can be daunting, especially when you ask, “So, how do we start?” Let’s take a treehouse example. Not only are we separating parts of a whole (yep, another concept), we are encouraging kids to use creative terms to identify the parts. 

Remember, it’s not about what word works for you and your adult mind, it’s what works for your child. Each object either gets a separate name and post-it, or is grouped into a category like “tools” or “roof materials.” 

Now it's your turn.

Start by letting go of static strategies and worksheets. Remember that sitting doesn’t equal learning. Instead of “first homework, then iPad,” tap into your playful creativity.

Consider how much effort it takes to complete a task that appears impossible. Move away from “preferred vs. non-preferred” and toward engaging your Autistic and ADHD kids in their own learning process. Think about how amazing it would be to contribute ideas without fear of making mistakes or being corrected for a wrong answer. 

Learn to recognize and respond to stress signals

In the intricate landscape of childhood development, understanding and addressing stress and dysregulation are paramount, especially for families navigating neurodiversity.

I've witnessed firsthand the profound impact that stress can have on children's well-being and behavior. More specifically, the way constant stressors derail executive functioning for ND kids.

Let me give you a brief guide from my latest Masterclass: Learn to recognize and respond to stress signals.

Understanding the stress response.

Have you ever noticed how your child's mood can shift in the blink of an eye? It's all part of how stress impacts us, especially when your developing nervous system is figuring out how to manage the world.

Sometimes, stress is a catalyst for growth as children explore novelties and handle uncertainty in a supportive setting.

Unfortunately, environments can also be chaotic and overwhelming without a sense of repair and stability.

For a neurodivergent child, the pressures lead to frustration and frequent outbursts. By tuning into your child’s cues, you’re guiding them through discomfort and responding to stress signals from a different perspective.

Learning to reframe misbehavior.

Traditional approaches to misbehavior often focus on blame and punishment; meanwhile, a trauma-informed lens encourages empathy and compassion. Reframing common phrases like "he needs to learn to control himself" or "she keeps giving me a hard time" shifts the narrative away from judgment and allows you to let go of preconceived notions.

Providing emotional safety.

Creating an environment in which Autistic and ADHD kids can show up as their authentic selves is essential for establishing social-emotional well-being. A regulated adult is needed the most as challenges arise.

That’s one of the main reasons neurodivergent children crave a safe space where they can fall apart, let out their worries, and know that expectations are off the table.

A relationship-based approach is how trust is built as ND kids learn to gain trust in their environment, trust in the people who are part of that environment, and trust in themselves. 

As you start to understand a stress response, reframe misbehavior, and promote relational safety, you will gain confidence in your own knowledge. Your felt empowerment adds value to your relationship so you can gracefully raise your neurodivergent kids.

The truth about tantrums and discipline in parenting

Behavior-based discipline will tell you that in order to stop a tantrum, you must ignore it, take something away, or, even worse, withdraw yourself. What the brain will tell you though is quite different because your child is responding in exactly the way their brain is wired to.

I am crushed and disheartened by them. They also leave me in disbelief that parents are still being told to ignore a painful experience.

That information is then being given to other parents, which fuels the cycle of mistrust the child is already feeling.

What about those massive meltdowns?

The ones where no matter how much you attempt to talk your neurodivergent child out of, there is no getting through to them? The truth is that you’re right.

There is no way you can make a child calm, especially with empty threats. When the brain is afraid, it’s irrational. And you will never be able to rationalize your way out of it.

Before I give you some insight into what really works, consider where that irrational fear comes from:

✓ the unexpected
✓ the unknown
✓ state of rejection
✓ lack of skills in regulation
✓ difficulty with change
✓ a sudden feeling of overwhelm
✓ anything that disrupts the nervous system

Those unexpected situations are moments when change comes at us quickly and we don’t have enough skills, yet, to pull back, recognize other options, sort through the options, and make an intentional decision based on the evidence gathered.

That’s the reason you see the kicking, yelling, hitting, biting, cursing…and then some! That’s the reason that phrases like “make a good choice right now” or “you should know better” have no bearing here.

Behaviors are your clues.

Instead of punishing and only responding when “appropriate,” learn how to recognize safety needs, gain insight into your child’s thoughts and feelings, and show up for your child in ways that are effective.

✓ Focus on the situation itself – not on what your child is doing right or wrong.
✓ Consider how intense the experience must be.
✓ Let go of your adult opinion of what’s nice or not nice.
✓ Check in with your own nervous system.
✓ Ride the wave by being fully present and intentional.

Forgo punitive methods that don’t work and align with relationship-based ones that do. Change the way that you connect with your neurodivergent child.

Why transitions lead to breakdowns and the need for closure

“I did a hard thing today.” – Insightful 7-year-old 

One of the most challenging aspects for Autistic and ADHD kids is leaving an idea “unfinished.”

It’s a struggle that leads to complete breakdowns during transitions, whether at home, school, or therapy.

Consider what the expectations are for a child to transition and how many times they’re expected to during the day.

It’s much more than “just” moving from one activity to another. 

Bringing it back to where “I did a hard thing today,” came from. 

Part of therapy is being open to a challenge and how we slowly build resilience through discomfort.

Let me be clear that this isn’t purposeful discomfort. It sometimes arises when skills are lacking.

It sometimes shows up when you’re pulling from resources to build awareness and integrate concepts. 

Discomfort is what brings about change.

During these struggles, when ideas are incomplete and thoughts are stuck, we want to gift ND kids our regulation and ease.

Even more so when they’re feeling uneasy. I say that you are gifting because, when you are regulated, your nervous system passes that on to your child.

We want to make sure that there is ample time to process and come to terms with the fact that something is ending. Kids need closure.

We give closure through our presence and the words we carefully choose.

Sometimes it sounds like this: “what I’m asking is a different idea…you’re thinking we should…and I’m wondering something else.”

Rather than going into an explanation of why we don’t have time or quickly wanting kids to think of something better that’s coming up so they “let go,” we bring them back to the present moment: “I hear you really wanting those magnet blocks…we’re going to save that idea…today we have…”

Remember to connect successes. 

Here’s an example: “Remember how hard it was to leave your chalkboard drawing unfinished…you did that! You figured out how. Today, we are also letting go.” 

There was a pause followed by: “I did a hard thing today.”

We mirror this insightfulness with: “Yes, you did do a hard thing today.”

Less is more!