Supporting working parents of neurodivergent children
Published : Sep 16, 2023
by Rec Parenting Team
Neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world in different ways. Being neurodivergent means having a brain that works differently from the ‘typical’ person. The key is that these differences are not viewed as deficits, rather they are seen as well…. differences, nor better or worse, just different.
Neurodiversity encompasses a wide range of issues, including: ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Down syndrome, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, tics disorders, ODD, giftedness…
Approximately 1 in 6 children can be considered neurodivergent. We know that being a working parent may be challenging but the challenges for working parents of neurodivergent children may seem unsurmountable. These parents have to address frequent and intense crisis-driven care needs for their children, experience stigmatisation in many areas of life, and are concerned about their job security because of their demanding child care responsibilities.
It is no surprising that parents of neurodivergent children drop out of the workforce at very high rates. Burnout, unpredictable schedules, and the varying levels of care required are some of the reasons. Yet we know that 60% of parents don’t disclose the fact that they have a neurodivergent child to their employer.
Knowing how to support parents caring for neurodivergent children is imperative. These parents do face extra challenges but they are also likely to develop very valuable skills from their experiences in an atypical parenting situation, such as resilience, negotiation, time management and flexibility.
Here are five strategies to support your employees who are caring for a neurodivergent child:
Support them with specialized resources: When a parent suspects or is told that their child may be neurodivergent, they face the very daunting and time-consuming task of understanding what to do, how to find the right specialists, and where to find support. And they must do all this while dealing with their own mental state. Offering dedicated resources at this time may be life-changing for a working parent. Parents of neurodivergent children need the right set of skills and tools so their whole family can thrive.
Support their mental health and wellbeing: Parents of neurodivergent children are 2.4 times more likely to have mental health issues than other parents. They suffer from high stress levels that contribute to depression, anxiety and other poor health outcomes. Easy access to mental health support services will help parents to take care of themselves in turn allowing them to take better care of their child.
Flexibility must be a policy not a perk: Be prepared to offer them some control over when and where they work. A meeting at 9 pm rather than at 4 pm may work better for them because the child is already in bed.
Train line managers: Line managers cannot be expected to know about everything. Training them so they have the tools to know how to accommodate and support parents of neurodivergent children is a must.
Create a truly inclusive workplace: Parents may not tell their employers about their situation because of fear of not being seen as completely invested in their jobs or fearing that their co-workers and managers will think that their children are ‘odd’ or ‘weird’. Actions such as creating a dedicated employee resource group, celebrating a ‘neurodiversity day or week’, or a ‘bring your family to work day’ will help to create an inclusive family-friendly working culture. No matter how families look like. Initiatives should be ongoing to increase engagement and awareness.
At REC Parenting we are committed to support the needs of parents of neurodivergent children. For any comments or queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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