Have you ever seen a care provider who just didn’t get you? It can be frustrating to experience, but for many neurodivergent folks, it can also be unfortunately common.
In a province where many professionals in health, education, social work, and other fields are still catching up with the latest information, spreading awareness and having open conversations about neuroaffirming care is crucial.
What is neuroaffirming care?
What exactly is neuroaffirming care? It’s all about providing support that embraces and respects the incredible diversity of neurotypes, or types of brains. This approach highlights the uniqueness of how our brains work and crafts customized plans to support individuals rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Neurodivergent people’s brains process, learn and behave differently from what’s typical. Their cognitive, sensory, and social experiences likely differ from the majority.
Neuroaffirming care highlights that these differences aren’t problems to be solved but are part of natural neurological variation or neurodivergence. This is an umbrella term that includes not just autistic folks but those with ADHD, Tourette’s, and other conditions.
The concept of neuroaffirming care is still relatively new to the public — coined in the late 90s — so the key principles will likely evolve. Still, the more we raise awareness about neuroaffirming care, the faster it will become more widely available.
Here are some of the fundamental principles of neuroaffirming care:
Knowledge and empowerment: Acknowledging and respecting the person’s neurodivergence, how it affects them, and what their unique experiences are that make them different from neurotypical patients
Individualized support: Tailoring the support and interventions to the specific needs and preferences of the person instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach
Reducing stigmatization: Challenging stigmas and stereotypes associated with neurodivergence and promoting a more accepting environment
Appropriate communication: Adapting communication methods to suit the person’s unique needs and preferences to facilitate cooperation
Promoting autonomy: Empowering people to make decisions and have agency in their own lives and care
Physical accessibility: Ensuring spaces are physically accessible and considering and accommodating the person’s sensory sensitivities
Why does neuroaffirming care matter?
In BC, neuroaffirming care can be hard to find. According to our recent survey results, many autistic adults feel like their healthcare providers don’t understand how autism affects them, which can lead to undetected health issues and worsening symptoms.
Here’s why normalizing, teaching, and learning about neuroaffirming care matters:
Better outcomes: When care is tailored to a person’s specific needs, it can lead to better outcomes for their health, wellness, learning, and overall functioning
Ethical and legal considerations: Recognizing and implementing neuroaffirming care is in line with ethical and legal obligations to provide equitable support to people with disabilities
Respect for diversity: Respecting that there are different ways of thinking, processing, experiencing, and communicating allows professionals to validate and value neurodivergent perspectives
Understanding masking and unmasking: Masking impacts the way autistic people receive care, often in a big way. Neuroaffirming care providers know this and use their knowledge to meet peoples’ needs better
Enhanced social inclusion: Creating neuroaffirming environments helps reduce stigma and discrimination, fostering a more inclusive society in which neurodivergent people can fully participate
The more we spread awareness about neuroaffirming care and have open conversations with care providers, the more we can make this powerful concept the new standard in BC.
Neuroaffirming care providers are hard to find in BC, but the more popular the concept gets, the more likely it is to spread across the province. From that understanding, providers can tailor support to individuals rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
A lifetime of working in journalism and advocacy prepared me for becoming a content creator with AutismBC. As an autistic person with OCD, anxiety, depression, and myotonic dystrophy, I understand firsthand what it’s like to live and think differently than most, and I’m passionate about advocating for and communicating with others in the community.
I’m also a non-binary lesbian in a happy relationship. Outside of writing, I love to make music, watch horror movies, and hang out with my partner and cat.
Asking your healthcare provider the right questions is the first step to ensuring they can provide you with neuroaffirming care. For autistic adults, access challenges, communication differences, and research gaps all make a difference and need to be acknowledged.