How to best support children with these common neurodiversity challenges

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"We must encourage children with these disorders to be the best they can be – even if this is not exactly who we first imagined they might have been." Photo: Supplied/Nancy Doyle
"We must encourage children with these disorders to be the best they can be – even if this is not exactly who we first imagined they might have been." Photo: Supplied/Nancy Doyle

Neurodiversity refers to the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population, says Dr Greg Pienaar.

Dr Pienaar is a registered educational psychologist who spent his lifetime in educational matters. He is now a Principal at The Bridge School for Assisted Learning, which caters for all children from pre-school level to High School.

Below, he unpacks several common types of neurodiversity found in children and provides some guidance on approaches to help these children.


Dr Pienaar says that ADD is a prevailing situation related to concentration and focus issues. He says that parents need to help their children choose the right school. In other words, a school with children with similar difficulties in class and trained teachers to assist and support a child with this barrier.

He also advises parents is to seek pharmacological intervention since it might be necessary to seek the advice of a respected paediatric neurologist, paediatric psychiatrist, or paediatrician.

Dyslexia or Dyscalculia

Dyslexia happens when the child faces learning struggles related to words, while dyscalculia is a learning struggle when it comes to numbers.

Again, Dr Pienaar says that the first step is to find the right school and support for children facing these challenges.

Since Dyslexia is likely to exist for a lifetime, Dr Pienaar says that parents need to implement all strategies such as explicit direct instruction in phonological and phonemic skills; consistent font style where necessary; building resilience and self-esteem.

Other strategies he mentions include having very little clutter in terms of work and workspace. Above all, accepting that although Dyslexia is a learning barrier, it is not a solid blockage with all the related negativities.


This disorder is also known as developmental coordination disorder, which relates to children who seem to be particularly clumsy or face delays in sitting, walking, jumping or any physical activity that requires coordination.

Dr Pienaar says that parents need not force a child to practice and become proficient in this case. He says that this is because it is unlikely that a child with this barrier will completely master a world of physical ability. He says that a child can improve with the proper support and intervention.


Anxiety becomes an issue mainly when it influences performance. Dr Pienaar says that the golden rule for parents regarding anxious children is offering full support and always providing loving guidance to the child. Dr Pienaar says that anxious children have feelings of not knowing what to expect and fearing the worst, which impacts their self-actualisation.

As parents, he says that we need to have and grow confidence in our children – letting them tackle progressively more challenging tasks until they can achieve mastery or competency.

He added, "As parents, we always hope that our children will get dealt a good hand of cards at the start of their lives from which to develop their abilities. There is, however, a wide range of neurodiversity challenges which impact a great number of children worldwide, which may initially prove to be a stumbling block in the eyes of parents."

He says that parents need to accept their children's unique nature and nurture and develop their unique gifts. This is because no matter who you are, there will be many things you can't do in this life, and that doesn't make you inferior it just makes you different. He says that parents need to recognise this and value their children to value themselves.

Dr Pienaar says that we must encourage children with these disorders to be the best they can be – even if this is not precisely who we first imagined they might have been.


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