Mental health is a crucial component of overall well-being, and individuals with varying developmental differences such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are at higher risk for mental health issues than their neurotypical peers. Therefore, it's essential to understand the connection between mental health and neurodiversity affirming practices.
What Are Neurodiversity Affirming Practices?
Neurodiversity affirming practices involve accepting and appreciating the diversity of neuromakeup among individuals in society. They seek to understand that every individual with varying developmental differences has unique strengths and abilities, and they respect and celebrate these differences.
According to the National Autistic Society, approximately 70% of autistic adults do not receive enough professional mental health support. Additionally, around 84% of autistic individuals report experiencing anxiety as a result of a lack of understanding about autism.
Studies published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that autistic individuals with strong empathic concern and perspective-taking skills had better mental health outcomes than those who did not possess these skills. These statistics support the importance of neurodiversity-affirming practices for promoting healthy mental health outcomes.
Approaches that Promote Neurodiversity Affirming Practices
1. Adaptive Learning Approaches
Neurodivergent individuals have unique learning styles, and adaptive learning approaches can cater to their needs. These approaches ensure that every child receives an education that suits their abilities without excluding any student from the curriculum.
A meta-analysis published in the journal Autism found that school-based mental health services, such as adaptive learning approaches, were effective in improving mental health outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder.
2. Encourage Self-Identity and Self-Advocacy
Encouraging individuals with developmental differences to identify with their unique strengths rather than their disabilities is crucial for building confidence and self-esteem, which are key to mental well-being.
A systematic review published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that self-acceptance was positively associated with mental health outcomes in autistic adults.
3. Neurodiversity Affirming Social Skills Stories
Neurodiversity affirming social skills stories created by AdaptEd can be a helpful tool to support students with unique abilities. These stories aim to honor autistic traits, respect neurodivergent people, offer support for common challenges, and encourage self-advocacy. By embracing autistic perspectives and neurodiverse voices, neurotypical peers can also benefit from these stories.
To promote healthy mental health outcomes, it's essential to prioritize and promote neurodiversity affirming practices. Using adaptive learning approaches, encouraging self-identity and self-advocacy, and incorporating neurodiversity affirming social skill stories are some actionable steps that parents and special education professionals can take. Let's create a more inclusive society where everyone's unique strengths and differences are acknowledged and celebrated.