In conversations around mental health or developmental disorders, you might have heard the terms “neurodivergence” or “neurotypical” being used. These terms are relatively new — a sociologist coined them in the late 1990s — and if you’re unclear on what they mean, you’re not alone. For parents, understanding what neurodivergence is, as well as identifying the signs of it in teens, can be challenging. And for teens, the journey of self-discovery and understanding their own neurodivergence can be confusing and overwhelming.
Learn more about what neurodivergence is and how to test for neurodivergence when you read this blog.
What Is Neurodivergence?
Neurodivergence refers to the natural variations in human brain function and development. It covers a broad range of conditions, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. Neurodivergent individuals think, learn, and process information differently than neurotypical individuals.
Neurodivergence is not necessarily something that needs fixing. Instead, it’s a natural part of human diversity and should be accepted and embraced. While neurodivergent individuals may face challenges in certain areas, they also have unique talents and abilities that should be recognized and nurtured. With adjustments in learning style and accommodations for different learning techniques, neurodivergent teens can achieve great things.
Signs of Neurodivergence
Since neurodivergence covers a broad range of conditions, it can be challenging to pinpoint specific signs that apply across the board. However, some common experiences may indicate that an individual is neurodivergent, including:
- Difficulty with social interactions and communication
- Sensory processing issues (sensitivity to noise or light)
- Struggles with organization and executive functioning
- Repetitive behaviors or restricted interests
- Difficulty managing emotions and behaviors
For teens, these signs of neurodivergence may become more apparent as they enter adolescence and face greater social and academic demands. However, not all teens with neurodivergence will display the same signs, and some may not show any at all. There is also a difference in how boys and girls present with neurodivergence, as typically, boys have a harder time masking symptoms and are more likely to present with focused, repetitive behaviors.
How to Test for Neurodivergence
If you suspect your teen may be neurodivergent, there are a few steps you can take to determine if further testing is necessary:
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician or school counselor – They may be able to provide initial screenings and referrals for specialized evaluations.
- Seek a psychological evaluation – A qualified mental health professional can administer tests and assessments to determine if your teen has a specific neurodivergent condition.
- Consider genetic testing – In some cases, neurodivergence may have a genetic component. Family history can provide valuable insight into a variety of conditions.
- Keep an open dialogue with your teen – Encourage your child to share their thoughts and feelings about any challenges they may be facing. Open communication can help you better understand their needs and support them effectively.
Every teen’s journey with neurodivergence is unique. Acceptance and understanding of what neurodivergence is are crucial for both parents and teens to navigate this journey successfully.
Call Ascend for Expert Adolescent Behavioral Health Treatment
At Ascend, we offer treatment programs for neurodivergent teens, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whether you choose residential or outpatient behavioral health treatment for adolescents, a custom plan can make a difference for teens whose neurodivergence is impacting their daily lives.