Support for Parents and Families of Neurodiverse & LGBTQ+ Teens
Through the years I have had many ‘jobs’ and ‘roles’ but the most important and life-changing one by far, has been the one of ‘Mum’.
I, like so many other Mums, started my motherhood journey wanting to do my very best for my babies.
I knew early on that my children were ‘different’ as they had identified as LGBTQ+ from a young age. As a child, I was the victim of unsafe adult behaviour that went unspoken about. I felt unseen and unheard in my experience and I desperately wanted to give my children a childhood that they didn’t have to heal from. However, as much as I tried, this was an aspiration that was impossible to live up to.
Despite my best intentions and attempts to give them a happy and stable childhood, my teens struggled with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and a myriad of other mental health issues for many years.
I was beating myself up mentally on a regular basis as I tried to stay strong and ‘positive’ through countless doctor, counsellor, psychiatrist and psychologist interventions to help my teens. However, nothing seemed to help.
Eventually, at the end of 2020, we received the diagnosis that our eldest child, Madi was Autistic. And because neurodivergence runs in families, subsequent tests revealed that their younger sister, Morgan was also Autistic. (We are currently on the waiting list to have our youngest formally assessed however we suspect that Theo may be neurodivergent too.)
Although initially, this diagnosis came as a surprise to me, as I educated myself on autism and neurodiversity, so much made sense!
It also became apparent to me that I had so much to learn about parenting teens who were neurodiverse as well as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I recognized that as a Mum, I would need to unlearn, heal and equip myself with the necessary skills to reparent myself while supporting my teens to advocate for themselves in a world wired for ‘normal’
My personal and professional life has revolved around advocating for all children and teenagers to be treated with the utmost respect. It’s vital that we dismantle the thinking and responses to their identity, choices and behaviour so that we can celebrate the beautiful beings we have been chosen to parent and I know we can discover how to support them to feel safe being who they are in the world.
I started my advocacy work in Early Childhood Education, 25 years ago, because I felt drawn to working with children. During my work, which is greatly influenced by the teachings of Dr Emmi Pikler and the RIE philosophy of Magda Gerber, I felt a calling to equip and support children to feel safe and receive the respect they deserve. I further invested in my professional skillset by becoming a certified Tuning in to Kids and Tuning in to Teens parenting program facilitator. I developed training programs to educate adults on the need for safe and respectful care towards children (especially non-verbal babies and toddlers). I went on to write 2 books and mentor Early Childhood Managers and their teams to create respect and recognition for a child’s right to be, choose and become.
As we unlearn, heal and equip ourselves as Parents, Guardians and Allies we can equip our Neurodiverse and LGBTQ+ Teens to validate their own emotions and advocate for themselves in a world wired for ‘normal’.
As a Proud Mama of 3 Neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ Teens, I know firsthand the precarious sensitivity involved in raising a teen with complex needs! This has led me to work alongside my husband, Wayne, and our children to create Seen, Heard, Accepted – an allyship program to equip families with the tools, skills and framework so our children and this new generation can thrive being seen, heard and accepted for who they are.