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My Mission - AKA My 'Why'

Trigger Warning: This is a deeply personal story that mentions self-harm and suicide, please use check in with yourself before reading this.

I can still remember when I first learned that the average life expectancy of an Autistic person was between 39.5 and 58 years of age. I was in the hospital and we had nearly lost one of our children to depression (and what I now know to be, Autistic burn-out).  I was reeling with shock and was absolutely devastated.

We had recently discovered that our two oldest children were Autistic and there were strong indications that our youngest was Autistic too.

“Are hospital stays like this going to be common occurrences with my children?”  I asked myself as I choked back tears of hopeless disbelief. I just couldn’t get my head (and my heart) around it!

And so I set about doing what Neurodivergent people do best – rigorous research! My Why - Tanya ValentinWhat I found astounded me. From my research, I learned that approximately 8 out of 10 Autistics are affected by mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Many Autistic deaths are due to poor mental health and suicide.

A huge contributing factor to this is the Neurodivergent experience of being disabled by the environment and culture we live in. Many Neurodivergent individuals feel an immense pressure to mask and hide who they can be safe and survive in a world that was not designed for us and our ways of knowing, doing and being.  This puts a huge strain on our nervous systems which affects all areas of our well-being.

The lack of knowledge and misinformation about Autism, ADHD and other forms of Neurodivergence and the consequences of this is complex and pervasive.  It is visible in our histories and in the way that we speak about Autism, ADHD and Neurodiversity.

This has devastating and far-reaching impact on our sense of identity, our parenting and how the education and health systems provide support for us and our children. 

And… Although what I found deeply saddened me, it also gave me hope.  

The causes of these issues mainly revolved around cultural perception and systems. It takes time and hard work but cultural and systemic change can happen. 

Call me optimistic but I firmly believe in the power of a few passionate, dedicated individuals and the profound difference we can make. Through my personal struggles combined with my hope in our shared humanity, a commitment was forged.

My Mission became crystal clear as an agent for cultural and systematic change in the way that Autistic, ADHD and AuDHD children, teens and adults are perceived, treated and responded.

It is my vision that we, Neurodivergent children, teenagers, adults and families can dramatically improve our life outcomes and live long, joyful and meaningful lives.

I believe that Neurodivergent rights are human rights and that we and our children deserve better!

This change starts with us – Autistic, ADHD and AuDHD parents. How we connect with and respond to our Autistic, ADHD and AuDHD children and reparent our own orphaned inner children is life changing and life saving work.

I firmly believe that the healing we do in our own families ripples out into the seen and unseen worlds.

We are the cradle of change.

woman carrying girl while showing smile

My How

My work with Parents and Families is based on the following Three Guiding Parenting Principles:

Connection First 

Neuroscience has taught us that the attachment we have with a parent or primary caregiver is the foundation from which all our relationships with people, places and things are built. A safe and secure connection with a significant adult can be a lifeline for a child (no matter their age) and is the most significant protective factor for their holistic well-being. Parenting that prioritises connection and the relationship we have with our children over compliance sets them up for life with a strong sense of self. This creates a legacy of self-acceptance, self-worth and self-love for our children, their children and future generations.

As connection-focused parents, we embodied this principle in the follows ways of knowing, doing and being:

  • We understand that connection is the goal of our interactions with our children.  We therefore strive to connect with our children before giving them advice, or trying to ‘fix’ or problem-solve with them.
  • We understand the importance of our connection with ourselves.  We parent from who we are and so every parenting journey is a reparenting journey.
  • We view our children (and ourselves) through the lens of unconditional positive regard. 
  • We stay curious about the experiences of our children and see their (and our own) behaviours and emotions as a window into their unmet needs.
  • When we make mistakes with our children we model making repairs to our relationship with them.

 

Affirming Our Authentic Neurodivergent Identities

For centuries Neurodivergent human beings have been dismissed, misunderstood, not consulted and ‘othered’ by our culture.  We have felt the need to conform and hide who we truly are as a way to survive in the world. It is time that we reclaim our Authentic Neurodivergent Identities, and culture for ourselves. 

It is time to take back our own stories and rewrite the narrative of how we are spoken about and the language that is used to describe us.

This principle is embodied in the follows ways of knowing, doing and being:

  • No one is ‘broken’ or needs to be ‘fixed’. We are divergent (different) not disordered.
  • We speak about ourselves in affirming ways – using identity first and strength based language and not referring to ourselves in pathologized terms.
  • We understand that all Neurodivergent people are different with their own unique characteristics, strength and challenges.
  • Every Neurodivergent person is a capable and competent ‘whole’ human being on their own journey.  We identify that every person is in their own space and time there is no rush to get someone to the ‘next level’
  • We deserve to have a voice and to have our Neurodivergent Identities taken into consideration when receiving support from education, community and medical services.
  • We deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and dignity as self-determining, sovereign human beings.

 

Trauma-Informed And Neuro-Affirming Parenting And Reparenting

Due to the current nature of the Neurodivergent experience, many Autistic, ADHDers and AuDHDers have intergenerational, acute and developmental trauma associated with their lived experience. This is why in order to be truly neuro-affirming we also need to be trauma-informed as parents of neurodivergent children and teenagers.

This principle is embodied in the follows ways of knowing, doing and being:

  • Developing an understanding of how trauma is encoded in our bodies and how to parent in a way that reduces the impact of trauma on our children’s nervous systems.
  • We adapt our parenting to suit our children’s individual strengths, needs, sensory profiles and how their brains are wired.
  • We nurture our children’s sovereignty by working alongside them and not ‘doing to them’. Through this approach we empower our children to grow their self-authority and learn to first look inside themselves to feel what is right for them before looking outward.
  • Through our connection with our children, we attune to their needs and the cues that they are send us as bids for understanding and connection.  

 

I am committed to working in partnership with parents and families. Neurodivergent parents know their children and families best and are the expert of themselves by merit of their lived experience. 

The Neurodivergent Family Toolbox

My Values

“Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk — we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviours align with those beliefs.” Brene Brown.

Here are the Values that guide my work with Parents and Families:

Shared Humanity

First and foremost I value and respect the connection we have with each other through our shared humanity. I strive to treat all I encounter with empathy, humility, vulnerability, compassion and respect.  I acknowledge that each Neurodivergent person has sovereignty over themselves and that they are already an expert by merit of their lived experience. 

Connection 

Connection with ourselves and each other is an innate expression of our shared humanity. We all strive to be loved, accepted and understood as connection is one of our fundamental needs as human beings. I embody connection by working in partnership with parents to support them connect with and understand themselves and their children.  I believe in the power of healing and learning through community as well as the connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Curiosity

I believe that curiosity is the precursor to all learning and understanding.  When we are able to approach ourselves, others and new situations with curiosity this allows us to hold each other in our most generous assumptions and clears the path for genuine empathy, understanding and connection to occur.

Courage

The Neurodivergent Paradigm Shift is a grass-roots movement. No paradigm shift in ways of thinking, knowing, being and doing can happen without extreme amounts of courage. 

I acknowledge the courage of all Neurodivergent people.

This is evident in the courage required to:

  • Break and heal cycles of intergenerational trauma.
  • Be the first in your family to embrace your Authentic Neurodivergent Identity.
  • Parent your children differently,
  • Create boundaries or to advocate for your or your children’s needs.

I acknowledge the radical amount of bravery it takes for so many in our community to get up every day and live in this world amongst so much adversity.

I see you Warrior Heart – Thank you for your courage.

If you are seeking support on your journey find out how you can work alongside me in my 1-1 Parent Coaching Partnerships