As a parent coach, I see a lot of children who have more than one neurodivergence in their profile. Today, we’re talking about five of the most common, least understood neurodivergent profiles that might be complicating your communication and behaviors.
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Summary of 5 Neurodivergent Profiles That Are More Common Than You Thought
Many neurodivergent folks have more than one “brand” of neurodiversity. Knowing what’s going on for your child will help you understand their challenges and needs better, so that you can offer better support and parenting strategies at home. Some common sets of traits we see in kids that we think all parents should be aware of include:
Rejection sensitivity dysphoria (RSD)
People with ADHD, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder often have RSD. They’re often mislabeled as being a “bad sport,” “too sensitive,” or a “crybaby.” Symptoms include emotional oversensitivity, higher-than-average empathy, perceiving rejection often (including when it’s not really there or intended), and self-criticism or negative self-talk (which can include self-harm). You may also see increased emotional outbursts, social withdrawal, and low self-esteem. Learn more:
Historically, alexithymia is defined as the inability (or a significant difficulty with) noticing and identifying emotions. It’s a trait that occurs in a wide variety of people, but more prominently in neurodivergent populations. It’s known as a “subclinical” trait, which just means that it “attaches” to other diagnoses, like autism, ADHD, depression, traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder, and others. Learn more:
Sensory processing disorder (SPD)
Sensory processing disorder is also called SPD, and in some places is called SID, for sensory integration disorder. This refers to the idea that you have a set of senses through which you are processing information at every moment of every day. Some of us process all this information coming in from all our senses very quickly, very smoothly, without any bumps in the road, and can use that information quickly and clearly to inform our understanding of their environment. Some of us have more trouble doing that than average, and those of us with autism, ADHD, and certain other neurodivergences tend to have more trouble managing, and being able to use our senses in a way that is helpful to us, as opposed to distracting or painful to us. Learn more:
Pathological demand avoidance (PDA)
PDA is a profile of autism, also referred to as pervasive demand for autonomy! This refers to the idea that we as autistic people want to be able to control our own lives as best as we can and that we are operating out of a sense of significant anxiety and insecurity in some places in our lives. In order to make ourselves feel more in control and more safe, we want to take back autonomy and control as often as we can. In many cases, when you have a child with a PDA profile, you end up with a child who is driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations (including things that they want to do or enjoy), who engages in constant negotiation or bartering over everyday tasks, who often experiences meltdowns and/or shutdowns, and who is relatively rigid and anxious. Traditional parenting methods usually do not work for a PDA child. Learn more:
Dyspraxia is a condition where the neurons in the brain that control motor skills and sensations don’t connect, sync and fire accurately. Children with dyspraxia appear awkward when moving their whole body, use too much or too little force, and may have poor motor planning, sequencing, and perceptual skills. This is technically a form of sensory processing disorder and can be diagnosed by an occupational therapist. Learn more:
If any of these conditions ring a bell for you when thinking about your child, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with your pediatrician, occupational therapist, and/or mental health professional. The more you can learn about your child’s experience of the world, the better we’ll be able to support them to succeed!
You deserve to have a family dynamic built on communication, trust, and teamwork. Join our comprehensive, 6-week program, Collaborative Families, to learn democratic, collaborative parenting techniques and get your family back on the same team. This program is evidence-based, neurodiversity-affirming and welcoming to all parents and families. Learn more here.