Neurodiversity and neurodivergence are issues most parents have problems dealing with, especially in South Asian culture. Misconceptions and taboos have parents tiptoeing around this issue, often causing untold damage to their child’s confidence and personality.

Neurodiversity is a broad term to describe people whose brains work in a different way from neurotypical people. Some people will have developmental issues along with physical challenges, while others might just have issues with focusing and associated learning disabilities and hyperactivity. Their brains also have strengths, where they can process things quickly and also have the ability to think in a multi-dimensional way. Usually creative and brilliant, they face academic challenges as they may not be able to focus for long on academics, affecting their understanding of concepts.

Nuanced neurodiversity where hyperactivity is not present is hard for parents to assess and understand as the obvious signs of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) where the child is unable to sit in one place are absent.


 As a parent whose son was assessed as being neurodiverse as a 15-year-old, I look back and see that the signs of his having this personality trait were always there. Like they say, hindsight is 20/20. I realize now the damage I could have done to my son by not accepting his concerns.

My son knew from his primary school days that he was different from the rest of the children as far as his focus was concerned. He realized he was unable to control his thoughts, and his mind wavered when he needed to study. He hated writing, especially cursive. He was an advanced reader who started reading at the age of four and had vocabulary and comprehension skills way beyond his age. He excelled in school until Grade V, despite his limited focus and aversion to writing. Since he hadn’t told us about his lack of focus, we had no idea about his challenges, especially since he was performing well in school.

As he entered the higher grades, academics became a huge challenge, and our frustrations with his lack of interest in studies increased. He was labeled “careless,”  “disinterested,” and “lazy” not just by the teachers but by us as well. The lack of acceptance, despite confiding in us, wrecked havoc with his mental health, resulted in behavioral issues, and affected his relationship with us as well.

What is it that made us decide we need assessment and intervention when he was in Grade X? 

Here are a few pointers on what made us realise he had a problem as there was a pattern to his academic performance:

-He did well in unit tests that were shorter in duration (1 hour exams). Performance dipped in exams when they were over an hour in duration. So, there was a focus issue for sure. -Writing was illegible after about 30 minutes of writing.

-Great in answering verbally but his understanding of the subject did not come through in his writing.

-Math problems involving many steps were a problem. Wouldn’t write down steps. -In a hurry to finish the paper as writing was clearly an issue.


The non-academic issues were actually more worrisome, as they affect quality of life and can cause problems in adulthood. They were:

-Getting ready for school was an issue. Right from getting up to going to school, it was a battle every day. This changed only after his diagnosis and acceptance (from himself as well as from our side). – Forgetting books in school on exam days every single time. This wasn’t done deliberately; it was actually because he forgot.

-Forgetting to submit homework despite doing it.

-Losing things like water bottles, stationery, and IDs regularly -Procrastination and low awareness of what was happening in school.

A preliminary assessment revealed that he had ADD( Attention Deficit Disorder). Therapy and medication were prescribed. The medications do not need to be taken for the rest of your life. Also, when the child is on medication, the brain works harder to absorb the concepts, and the child feels drained out once the effect of the medicine wears off. So a break from academics is needed; let the child relax the way he wants to.

What really works is therapy, as it tends to weed out issues from the roots. While the effects of therapy take time to be visible, this is the one thing that helps the child accept himself, accept that parents can make mistakes, and accept that it is okay to be the way he is. It also helps them prioritise academics and mental health with the right balance of fun and study. So, one has to be patient and not expect things to change overnight.

How can parents help a child with this kind of neurodiversity? 

  1. For one thing, accept the child as he is, praise his strengths, and help with his weaknesses.
  2. Most people with ADD/ADHD have major issues taking care of administrative and clerical details and need help in these areas of their lives. 
  3. Create a schedule and help them maintain it. Don’t micromanage, as this can backfire. What worked for us was a gentle nudge every now and then.
  4. A break from routine every now and then works wonders. I would make the children miss school and take them to melas, movies, or sightseeing in Delhi. This would recharge their batteries and help us bond. 


My son went to a concert just one month before his boards because we felt it was good for his mental health. In fact, my children find these memories to be the most special ones now that they are in college.

Nuanced neurodiversity often goes undetected, and the kids are often insulted by teachers and do untold damage. Have your child’s back and also sensitise the teacher about how to deal with your child. This is imperative, as it lets the child know that they have your support. It goes a long way in increasing their confidence.

As soon as an assessment is done, please inform the school about it and avail of the accommodations provided by the school and board. Educate yourself on neurodiversity and find a path that works for you. This might take time and constant tweaking as situations change and children do as well. We need to evolve as per the situation.

Please don’t be disheartened once your child is assessed as being neurodivergent. With current advancements in medicines and a modern approach to therapy, people have gone on to do well and excel in their fields. Once we accept, we find ways to support and encourage our children to chase their dreams.

Caveat- I am writing this as a parent of a neurodiverse child and not as a professional. Do not treat this as professional advice.


This article has been wriiten by Deepa Kulkarni 

Deepa is lifelong nomad, who now calls Gurgaon home, and has  found ‘herself’ here. Always a bit different, she now celebrates her ‘hatke’ personality.