Ableism in Disguise: Neurodivergence & Routine

There are many voices trying to tell you what your child needs. This seems to increase exponentially if you have a child who is neurodivergent. Often you not only have family, friends and strangers weighing in but professionals too.

And they generally all speak from a particular paradigm. It is one of conformity and compliance. It is one of control. It is generally based off of the idea of a child who will be institutionalised and who will be required to compromise themselves for the convenience of mass indoctrination.

If you are planning to live a life free from compulsory education, you are not confined to it’s expectations. You are able to prioritise the child in front of you rather than society’s idea of who they should be. Your child has the space to figure out what best serves them specifically and consensually.

Yet when I talk about control (such as here and here and here) there are still those that tell me how this clearly only applies to certain children.

I really want it to be known explicitly; I do not share that perspective. I advocate for all children.

Though people use phrasing to suggest they are doing so for the benefit of their child, it doesn’t take too long for that to become discredited. If a person does not have an opportunity to decline, it is not a gift but an expectation. It is not an act of assistance but a requirement for such.

Parents are often acting with the best of intentions, I do acknowledge this. They want their child to align better with mainstream society so that they can increase their chances of success (and therefore happiness). But could it ever be considered success if it is at the expense of self? Could it really be considered success if it is not something that person actually wants for themselves?

Really contemplate: does conformity actually benefit your child? Does it benefit anyone personally? How have you felt when you were expected to conform?

But okay, what if it’s not about conformity, what if it is about health? Surely then a parent is justified in removing some autonomy and enacting some authority.

But what is health?

A person who finds their most regulated state of being in video games, is hurt by having their access restricted. A person who finds the act of bathing a sensory overload, is hurt by having that required of them. A person who is essentially told that who they are is not good enough and not worthy of making choices, is never going to be healthy no matter what they do or do not do.

And when there is a genuine conflict with health? Control could never be the answer because control itself compromises a person’s wellbeing.

Thankfully, there are always ways to work with a person that honours their autonomy. Together you can figure out the source of the reservations, you are able to provide clarifying information to assist in their ability to make informed choices, explore alternatives and most importantly; empathise. Empathy is how we acknowledge a person’s feelings are valid and important to us.

In reality, there are so many diverse ways to be healthy. There are more options than bathing or showering for maintaining hygiene. There are more options than tooth brushes for cleaning teeth. There are more options for movement than conventional ideas of exercise. There are more options for a worthwhile existence than the mainstream narrative.

When somebody talks about the necessity of structure or routine or perhaps “help” to make better choices for a person, they are infringing on aspects of that person’s ownership over their existence and their expression of such.

They are asking them to dilute their needs, wants, emotions and voice. They are asking them to dilute themselves.

And perhaps we should be asking not what we think somebody needs to be to better align with our or society’s ideals but what they deserve. How can we best support them to find their own inner framework and make the decisions that contribute to such?

I can’t wait for society to start asking how we can make the world more accessible to people instead of how we can make people more accessible to the world and offering the solution of requiring them to forgo their rights.

And yes, there are people in the world who benefit from routine, of course. But this can develop organically and from that own individuals motivations. If it is externally derived and forced, it is demoralising.

Because the reality is that if you are saying a person needs you to make decisions for them, you’re also saying that they are less deserving of their humanity. And that just could never be accurate.

You may also like


  1. Totally agree working in a school as a teaching assistant and bringing 5 children in to the world has taught me a lot and yet so little, indoctrination and letting go of all the beliefs this system has programmed in to each and every one of us has and is a process of UN learning I agree with so much of what you speak and I believe through the education system the children are taught very young to not be unique to follow orders and arise to a bell and move along I mean three year olds having to sit crossed legs in assembly and not fidget or speak unbelievable marking pink and green on three year olds work for who???? I have a 13year old and 11year old the others have grown and fled the nest, I really really want to home school the two at home although pressure from children, partner,any advice would be appreciated partner wants a structure of sorts to she o w him how it works and how they get educated I try to explain they get educated freely exploring themselves sorry for long post thanks love your web so glad I found you much love and appreciation xxxx

  2. My son had a teacher who led by example. That was the year everything changed, and it became all about my son, and not shoving him into a box. I thank God for her continually. She changed our lives.

  3. This made me cry actual tears. My beautiful, beautiful eldest son is never going to fit any mainstream idea or ideal yet he is so imperfectly perfect and I hope our safe and accepting family will help his internal dialogue develop to one of pride.

    I read this article the other day on how a Doctor took his autistic teenage son out of school for six months to travel and the huge leaps in development he had. It was put down to the constant changes he was exposed to, but I wonder how much of that was because he had six constant months in the company of those who love and support him unconditionally. A commenter on the article said the same affect was seen on her son but she didn’t think the changes were permanent because his tics and anxiety returned when he went back to school. Tears of sorrow for that child.

    Thank you for being such a strong voice for such a natural but widely unaccepted view. You make me feel stronger in my own convictions. I used to tell people we homeschooled because I felt like that made other people more comfortable, but I now feel confident to tell people we unschool and to start that very positive dialogue by answering their questions ❤️

  4. Just what I’m searching for to back up my sons case for autonomy…how education is impingeing upon his human rights.Wonderfully intuitive understanding of our right to be who we are.Thank you

  5. I am a closet reader and follower, but I must say that you are so brilliant! You are endlessly inspiring and help me to put my thoughts to words in numerous posts. I am thankful to have found you.

    Neurodivergence doesn’t apply to my child or me, but I have always been sensory sensitive. As a child I was ridiculed and misunderstood. Made to wear that itchy shirt even though I fought and screamed not to. Called a hypochondriac by friends and family for noticing symptoms that others dismissed. I know that feeling of having my voice taken from me so well. And yet I forget.

    My two year old screams and fights every time his hair is to be washed. I have tried many different ways to ease his fear(?), or discomfort(?), tried to understand why he is so adamantly against it. And so I go weeks without washing, and then at some point decide it needs to be done and hold him still while he gnashes his teeth. How dare I take that from him? I preach autonomy from the rooftops, but can’t try just a little bit harder to understand my sweet boy and navigate our way around this issue together?

    You have truly inspired me to do better. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *