This week is Neurodiversity Celebration Week. It is aimed at promoting recognition, understanding, acceptance and inclusion of neurodiverse individuals in society. A key focus is to challenge stereotypes, misconceptions and the stigma which may be associated with neurological differences. Marking this week allows us an opportunity to provide support for neurodiverse individuals and to recognise their unique perspectives and contributions.

What is neurodiversity?

We each process the world around us and think in different ways. Around 15-20% of the world population has a neurological difference. The neurodiversity paradigm suggests that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and others, are the result of natural variations in the human genome. As such, they should be viewed as a normal and valuable part of human diversity rather than being viewed solely as disorders and deficits. Diverse cognitive styles and ways of processing information can offer unique strengths and perspectives.

The relevance of neurodiversity in family law

It is important for separated families to consider neurodiversity affecting a child, when considering care arrangements and how co-parenting can operate successfully.

Considerations for managing care arrangements involving a neurodivergent child

It is important to recognise that each child is different. Parents need to consider how their child's neurodivergence impacts on co-parenting, so that the individual child's needs are met.

Whilst not all neurodivergent children will have major issues adapting to new settings and care arrangements, there can be some challenges. Parents may wish to consider the following:

  1. Considering the views of the child – children who are neurodivergent might struggle to express their views in a way others might typically expect. Parents ought to consider carefully how they can try to understand how the child feels about matters affecting them, including their care arrangements. This could involve seeking input from a professional with experience of working with the child's particular neurodivergence.

  2. The importance of structure, routine and predictability – for many neurodivergent children, structure, routine, consistency and predictability is very important to their wellbeing. Separated parents ought to consider how their separation will impact upon their child's world. Maintaining previous routines and structures may be very important to alleviating the child's anxiety and stress. This can include routines before and after school, mealtimes, bedtime, access to tablets and other devices.

  3. Transition planning – transitions between homes can be challenging for all children but may be particularly so for neurodivergent children. Parents ought to agree on consistent approaches to preparing the child for change, which might include comfort toys or simply reassurance that it is ok to move between homes.

  4. Effective communication – it is important for parents of neurodivergent children to have effective communication. There ought to be open and honest dialogue about the child's needs and any struggles, to ensure a smooth transition between households.

  5. Minimising conflict – high levels of conflict between parents can be extremely distressing for neurodivergent children, who can be impacted negatively by sensory stimuli (including emotional tension). Parents ought to consider how to minimise conflict and potential harm to their child.

  6. Emotional regulation – neurodivergent children might struggle to regulate their emotions. Parents ought to discuss and agree consistent coping strategies and emotional support for the child. This might, for example, include ensuring that both homes have the same sensory toys or calming aids.

  7. Professional support and medication – it is important that parents try to reach consensus on professional support required for their child (such as therapists, psychologists and other professionals) as well as in relation to any medication the child may require.

Brodies LLP have considerable experience of assisting separated families in navigating their separation and children's care arrangements where a parent or child is neurodivergent. We can assist by providing advice and helping parents to secure arrangements for their children taking into account neurodivergence.


Garry Sturrock

Senior Associate