In schools and educational settings across the UK, Neurodivergent children, including those with mental health conditions, are praised for “good choices” and punished for “bad choices.”
This may seem effective on the surface but this idea puts the onus of ‘appropriate’ behaviours, reactionary and otherwise, on the child in question. This is harmful for several reasons:
- Pressure is put on children to act in an ‘appropriate’ way, within illogical rules which are forever changing.
- Children are very rarely a part of this rule creation – they have no autonomy over their expectation of themselves and others.
- For the most part allistic* adults create rules for Neurodivergent children with no understanding of neurodivergence and no empathy for children.
- Even when there is knowledge and empathy, professionals work within systems which do not uphold these qualities. Children need to be compliant at all costs. Especially Disabled children.
Fundamentally, Neurodivergent children are held to the same standards as non-neurodivergent adults. This is impossible for children to maintain and makes them mask who they are or risk punishment for merely living their authentic Neurodivergent embodiment and culture.
No one asks the professionals if they’re making “good choices.” These choices are the soul responsibility of children. Children are to be compliant, happy, quiet and always achieving – no matter how they are treated by adults and others around them.
This way systems and the professionals who uphold them need never reflect on how they treat Neurodivergent children, they children are seen purely as unreachable, unteachable and complete write-offs.
Those of us who work with children, neurodivergent or otherwise, have a responsibility to reflect on our practices and our general ethos. If we don’t we are likely to do some serious damage to those we work with and that would definitely be a bad choice.