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As your child matures, they may benefit from understanding that they see the world in a different way to other people. This applies to neurotypical children as well as neurodivergent children – communication is much more effective when everyone takes responsibility for addressing differences and overcoming difficulties.

Help your child with understanding their emotions and those of others.

  • Help your child with their own thoughts and feelings and those of others.This will take time to achieve! See it as a long-term goal.
  • Label your own thoughts and feelings and describe what happened around them.
  • Explain out loud how you solve your day-to-day difficulties. Do so as the situations occur.
  • ‘Wonder out loud’ about their feelings (this could include labelling those that seem obvious) and, if you can, connect to them the event which resulted in the feeling. Use positive feelings as well as those that can be seen as more negative.

Some ideas on how to achieve this:

  • Make your everyday key emotions more noticeable.
  • Draw attention to your non-verbal expressions (e.g., I’m smiling because I’m happy; I’m frowning because I’m cross)
  • Be clear about why certain emotions occurred. (e.g. I’m happy because you helped me tidy up! I’m cross because I’ve lost my purse)
  • Say aloud what you are thinking which might influence your next actions (e.g., I’m going to have to stop watching tv as I need to cook tea…)
  • If your child or your family have common feeling words always use these.
  • Label their emotions and why they may be feeling a certain way. (You’re laughing, you look happy is it because you’re enjoying your game?)
  • Make clear connections between behaviours and consequences. (e.g., It hurt when you fell over, hitting people also hurts. When people hurt, they cry.)
  • Use everyday situations to reinforce social thinking. (E.g. it’s Flossie’s birthday today, what gifts do you think she would like? Bob is ill today, what could we do to help him feel better?)
  • Try to use visual aids with different feelings on them.

Try to use a ‘voiced’ approach to how you solve problems:

  • What do I have to do here?
  • What are some ways I could do it?
  • What will happen if I try it this way…. what if I try it another way……
  • How did the way I chose work out?
  • What shall I try next time I have this problem?

Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations

These are a good way to explain to your child what is happening or to help unpick a tricky situation. They can also be used to help children understand risks around impulsive behaviours, or as they get older how peers can perhaps encourage them to do things that will get them into trouble.  This is a visual way to look at a situation, how the people involved may be feeling and what their intentions may be.

Comic Strip Conversations use simple stick figures and symbols to represent social interactions and the abstract aspects of conversation. When writing a social story have an idea of what the goal of the story is. Then consider what they need to know to achieve this understanding.

Gather the information needed:

  • Where does the situation occur?
  • Who is it with?
  • How does it begin?
  • How does it end?
  • What actually happens?
  • Why?

If it is for a situation where the outcome is not clear use the words ‘sometimes’ and ‘usually’. Try not to use words that cause anxiety or distress to your child. Use words and content that is at their level of understanding. Use photographs, pictures, or drawings with the words to help aid their understanding. There are lots of examples on the internet of social stories, here are a couple of examples:

Or you could make up your own:

Helping your child with their hobbies and special interests.

Your child may have areas which you have noted that they have a strong motivation around. Having something you do repetitively is common amongst most people. We all have our daily rituals and special interests. Some people have compulsions to carry out specific activities. It is helpful to think about the activities your child is motivated to carry out and if they are a special interest, a ritual or part of a compulsion.

Special Interests/Hobbies:

We all have special interests and hobbies – These are things your child does that they enjoy. They will happily spend time doing the activity. They may want to carry out the interest when they have free/unstructured time. It can be used by them (not necessarily with them realising it) as a means to relieve stress. They can be used as things to motivate them. They are likely to get upset if prevented from doing the activity or you interrupt them during it.


These are things that they like to do that make life manageable. They give them a sense of control and reflect things that are important to them. They can be used both to show a positive emotion/but also anxiety. Your child may have some rituals around certain everyday tasks. This reduces their need to process and think what they have to do next. When you alter them/disturb their processes around them they will need to put things back to how they want them. We all have rituals we like to follow.


These are often a means to relieve discomfort. (Common one is checking doors are locked, but it can be other things) But it only ever temporarily relieves the feeling of discomfort. It is often only this particular behaviour which is felt to relieve the intense feeling of discomfort. Your child’s need to carry out certain compulsions may need to be better understood.

Techniques for supporting engagement with everyday tasks and routines:

Ensure your child knows what is happening in advance, so they are aware of changes. But don’t go too far ahead otherwise they will be questioning when an event will occur, and this will increase anxiety. Visuals such as now and next boards, daily planners or longer-term calendars can help, as they are concrete and can be referred back to as many times as needed.


You will have an idea of how much information they can manage and over what timespan. Reflect back and think, did they need more detail for the day or just a brief overview? (is a whole day’s structure or whole week or just now and next better?) If they forget will pictures/photographs help? As our child matures would having their own schedule in a Filofax or on their phone be more accepted by them?

Can they structure their free time, or do they need your help with this? Possibly have an idea board or suggestions that they can then go to in order to make them more independent around their free time.

Countdowns and Warnings:

  • Don’t suddenly expect them to leave a situation. Try not to say be ready in “a minute” as this may not be specific, as an ‘adult minute’ can be very different to theirs.  Use visual methods such as an egg timer, or hands on the clock to help them understand when the situation will change/happen.
  • Introduce “delay fading” – If they want to do something but dinner is in 10 minutes tell them they can do the activity after dinner, then suggest something they could do to make the waiting easier, e.g. draw a picture, watch a specific short programme.
  • Use instructions not questions, e.g., not “will you….”; use, “tidy your room now please”.
  • If they seem to be having a difficulty with a direct request try to offer a choice…i.e., do you want to tidy your toys or hoover your bedroom
  • When offering choices, keep it to only two (they are also less likely to say no if offered a couple of choices as opposed to a request).
  • If they take a long time to choose, say “Are you still choosing or would you like me to choose for you?”. Bear in mind your child may need more time to process verbal information than you expect – always try to count slowly to 10 before repeating or prompting.
  • Don’t engage in an argument.  Avoid using the word “no”. Try, “I have said yes; you can ……after your lunch.”

Use of reward charts:

  • Many children are likely to respond to exciting things they enjoy and one way to capture this is via a reward system.
  • Think of things they are motivated around such as time on an iPad or video game, an activity they like possibly baking a cake, doing crafts with you, a favourite game to play together, going swimming, to the park, choosing a takeaway.
  • Devise a reward chart (ideally together) so to visually show how to meet a desired goal – make sure they know exactly what is expected. Avoid vague abstract statements like ‘be good’ or ‘use kind words’.
  • Keep it maintained and ensure they can meet the goal. (If it’s too hard they will rapidly lose interest or get frustrated)
  • Both long-term and short-term goals can be helpful. It is likely that they may need to reach some goals in a day, or even in half a day, with others they could attain over the space of a week.
  • Have the goal as something they can see. Have picture of what they are aiming for, or you could take a photograph/picture cut it in sections and use them earning a piece of the puzzle as a means to see their progress towards the goal.
  • Never take away things that have already been earned.
  • Think carefully about what you are rewarding – rewarding children for masking or ‘appearing neurotypical’ is likely to be harmful in the long run.

The concept of time

Those with neurodiversity often have trouble with what is called “time blindness.” This means that they have difficulty estimating or keeping track of time. They may underestimate how much time has passed, how long a task will take, or how much time is left before an event.

As a result, they may miss deadlines or arrive late. They may also have difficulty making a realistic schedule or sticking to a schedule. Time blindness can be frustrating and make it difficult to get things done. This can lead to missed deadlines, lost belongings, and general chaos.

However, there are ways to manage it. By understanding and managing your time blindness, you can improve your productivity and reduce your stress levels.

What to Teach for the Concept of Time

Here are a few suggestions of what to teach about the concept of time:

  • Teach the language of time for time frames – before, after, next, later, until
  • Teach yesterday, today and tomorrow for specific periods of time
  • Teach past, present and future to learn broader concepts of time
  • Teach the sequence of the days and months.
  • For months, also learn their numerical order – ex. December is the 12th month. February is the second month. Many dates are written out numerically on forms and statements.
  • Teach what a.m. and p.m mean.
  • How to count in one second increments (one – one thousand, two-two thousand etc.) . This is good for both waiting and calming.
  • Practice timing different events – how long it takes to put in a load of laundry, make a sandwich, sing a favorite song.
  • Set an alarm for reminders to do things at particular times.
  • Play a game – have the person estimate how long it will take to do a task, then time it to see how long it actually takes.
  • Build time into directions and schedules. For example, if bathtime is at 8:00 pm, twenty minutes before say, “Bathtime is in 2o minutes.” You can then set a Time Timer for 20 minutes to show this passage of time.

Why is Time Management Important?

Being able to engage independently in daily activities has an impact on quality of life. If a person can manage their time, they will have more choices, more options for activities, and more opportunities for successful social interactions. The less dependent a person is on others, the more choices and options they will have to do what they want in life. Learning about time will help with scheduling, efficiency, budgeting time, and prioritizing (what to do first, second etc.)

When an activity ends:

  • The end of an exciting fun day out can bring a child down with a crash as the adrenaline stops.
  • They may become sad or irritable as there is nothing to look forward to at that moment.
  • This can be very frustrating when you have spent a day entertaining them!
  • Possibly offering a favoured home-based activity such as a takeaway or special snack, playing a game together or a deep bubble bath could prevent that slump.

Executive function

Executive function is a set of mental skills that help people plan, organize, manage their time, pay attention, process information, and control their behaviour. Executive function issues can affect everything from how a person interacts with other people to their ability to learn and work.   Neurodivergent people can often struggle with Executive Function.

Executive function is not the same as intelligence. So, someone can be very bright but struggle to apply their knowledge or skills due to these difficulties.

Here is a link with a person who has Autism explaining what executive functioning difficulties are like for them: https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/professional-practice/executive-functioning

A method that may help with talking to your child about emotions if they are neurodivergent or have experienced developmental trauma.

Sometimes brains find emotions hard to manage.

  1. The window of tolerance
  • Everyone has a window of tolerance which is the number of things that happen that they can manage ok with.  Usually, people have a good size window of tolerance. They may also think that everyone else including you also has this size window.
  • BUT yours is smaller.
  • When you are outside your window of tolerance, your brain thinks it needs to help you to survive.

2. When you are outside your window of tolerance, your brain thinks it needs to help you to survive.

It does this by acting in different ways:

  • To fight like a Tiger.
  • In flight, like a cat or emu running off.
  • To freeze, like a rabbit.
  • To pretend you’re not there, like rolling up in a ball like a hedgehog

Here are some sheets that you could look at with your parents or someone you know well.
They are from Beacon House.
They help you think about when you could be feeling like these animals and how people could help you:

What ideas do you have that other people could use to help you when you feel like this? Here are some from Beacon House

What ideas do you have that other people could use to help you when you feel like this? Here are some from Beacon House

What ideas do you have that other people could use to help you when you feel like this? Here are some from Beacon House

What ideas do you have that other people could use to help you when you feel like this? Here are some from Beacon House

Parenting a Child with Neurodiversity or who has experienced Trauma.

(based on the work by Dan Hughes and Kim S Golding including graphics taken from Beacon House)

All intimate relationships are designed to work in a reciprocal manner. As humans we give love affection and comfort and neurologically are designed to receive back from these behaviours.  As parents when we raise a child who does not respond to our care, we are at risk of finding it difficult to continue in a consistent way.

A central part of PACE parenting includes empathy, however:

Raising a child who continues to reject your efforts will cause a strain on you and your relationships.

  • You may doubt your ability.
  • You may feel hurt from the rejection.
  • You may experience health problems such as anxiety/anger or depression.
  • It may trigger earlier experiences of rejection feelings you had. These may get mixed up in the present and affect how you respond to the child.

Reasons why empathy becomes too difficult?

  • Being aware every day of what the child is doing and why and managing your own emotional reactions such as:
  • Anger at their aggression/defiance.
  • Frustration when they don’t do what they are capable of.
  • Hurt from their rejection of you.

Signs your empathy is low when you respond to them with:

  • Anger, despair that you no longer understand or are helping them.
  • That you cant go on providing a home for them.
  • They feel selfish and ungratefful.
  • Frustration that they are not taking repsonsibility for their behaviour.

Parenting can be emotionally draining, it is hard to maintain empathy if you feel personally targetted.

Going forward: Reflect on your stress and how you are coping

The balance of resources and demands will reflect on your ability to cope. Coping is where you have more resources than demands. Not coping is when you have more demands than resources.


  • Internal resources like your health fitness and confidence.
  • External such as holidays, care breaks, and external supports. (Therapists, family workers etc) 


  • Getting children to school.
  • Attending meetings
  • Employment
  • Managing difficult behaviours

It is important to care for yourself so you can consistently care for the child. Think of your own needs and have time to yourself. It is important to recharge your own emotional reserves – to give yourself some Empathy.

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