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Neuro Affirming Practices with Kids: Understanding the Importance of Positive Reinforcement

Key Takeaway?

  1. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in both neurotypical and neurodiverse child development, encouraging desired behaviors and promoting self-confidence.

  2. Not all children respond to stimuli in the same way; recognizing and adapting to individual differences is crucial in nurturing a neurodiverse child.

  3. Consistency in positive reinforcement helps in establishing routine and predictability, essential elements for children with neurodivergent conditions.

  4. The use of specific praise, rather than generic, can effectively reinforce a child’s behavior; it makes them feel acknowledged and valued for their actions.

  5. Incorporating positive reinforcement strategies in daily routines and activities creates an encouraging and supportive environment for neurodiverse children.

As parents, educators, or professionals, we all try to create a nurturing and caring environment for our children. However, we often forget that children have diverse learning needs that require additional attention and care. This is where neurodiversity-affirming practices come into play. These practices help children feel safe, accepted, and valued, enabling them to build self-esteem, cultivate positive relationships and succeed in their lives. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the importance of neuro-affirming practices with kids and how these practices can be implemented in our daily lives.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

Creating a safe, accepting, and inclusive environment is the foundation of neurodiversity-affirming practices. It’s crucial to provide children with a nurturing space where they feel confident expressing themselves and their unique abilities. We need to ensure that the environment is flexible, adaptable, and accepting of children’s varying physical, sensory, cognitive, and emotional needs. For instance, if a child has a sensory processing disorder, creating a quiet area for them to take a break can help them regulate their sensory input and maintain focus.

At Valued Voices, we provide therapeutic programs such as speech therapy and occupational therapy that are respectful of neurodivergence, such as autistic differences and sensory processing differences. Learn more about how we support autistic children with neurodiversity-affirming care.

Encouraging Positive Reinforcement and Feedback

Positive reinforcement and feedback are key components of a neurodiversity-affirming practice. Instead of rewarding autistic children for achieving goals or getting things right, we must also focus on their efforts and progress. Praising children for their efforts and giving specific feedback can help them build self-esteem and a growth mindset. For example, praising a child for their efforts, such as “I’m proud of you for working really hard,” can help them feel appreciated and motivated to try harder.

By encouraging progress and effort, we can help neurodiverse children increase their confidence in their abilities. Research shows that positive reinforcement is an effective tool for helping autistic children learn new skills and behaviors. Positive reinforcement can also be beneficial in helping neurodiverse students engage in the classroom, as it provides them with a sense of purpose and belonging.

Nurturing Unique Skills and Talents

By adapting the classroom environment to accommodate individual learning styles, we can nurture the unique skills and talents of neurodiverse students. Allowing different approaches to learning can help foster creativity in autistic children, as they are more likely to think outside the box. We should also be aware of how different communication methods can support neurodiverse children. For example, visual aids such as schedules and pictures can help autistic children better understand information and support them in transitions and/or activities within the classroom.

By recognizing the diverse needs of neurodiverse students, we can create learning opportunities that are truly meaningful to them. Providing educational resources tailored to their strengths, interests, and goals can help children build confidence in their capabilities. At Valued Voices, we provide individualized assessment and therapy for children that are tailored to their specific needs and goals. Find out more about how our personalized approach can help your child succeed.

Understanding and Celebrating Diversity

Children come from varied backgrounds, cultures, and abilities. It’s crucial to celebrate this diversity and help children understand and appreciate their differences and those of others. Neurodiversity-affirming practices can help create a safe and understanding environment while promoting inclusion and respect. Making sure that different cultural events and holidays are acknowledged, as well as neurological differences, allows all children to feel seen, valued and appreciated.

It’s also important to consider the language we use when discussing neurodiversity. Using terms such as “neurotypical” instead of “disorder” can help promote acceptance and understanding of individuals with neurological differences. By having open conversations about neurodiversity, we can cultivate an environment that respects and celebrates all forms of difference.

At Valued Voices, we believe that neurodiversity should be celebrated and embraced! We provide assessments to help identify strengths and challenges in children with neurological differences, as well as therapy programs tailored to their specific needs. Get in touch to find out more about our speech therapy services for autism.

Providing Opportunities for Sensory Play

Sensory play is a crucial part of child development, allowing children to explore their surroundings using all their senses. It’s essential to provide opportunities for multi-sensory play, such as sand, water, or slime. Sensory play not only helps children strengthen their gross and fine motor skills, but it can also be used to cultivate social-emotional development, sensory regulation, and communication skills.

At Valued Voices, we understand the importance of sensory play for neurodiverse children. That’s why we offer a range of services designed to help autistic children develop their skills and abilities through fun, engaging activities. Find out more about how our services can benefit your child.

Creating Collaborative Learning Opportunities

Collaborative learning opportunities enable children to work together, share their strengths, and collaborate toward a shared goal. These opportunities can help children build relationships, learn from each other, and see the value in different perspectives. It’s essential to provide opportunities for collaborative learning as it promotes safe learning communities where children can support each other without fear.

By providing the right support and resources, neurodiverse children can reach their fullest potential.

Practicing Self-Advocacy

Teaching children to recognize and express their needs is essential to cultivating a sense of autonomy and independence. Self advocacy skills can also help them form meaningful relationships with their peers and adults as they learn how to effectively communicate in different contexts.

By helping neurodiverse children build the skills and confidence to advocate for themselves, we can equip them with the tools they need to navigate the world around them.

Celebrating Strengths & Letting Our Children Lead

Let’s shift our focus away from milestones, instead let’s ask questions about a child’s interests, strengths, play preferences and family goals. We owe it to our kiddos to learn about their unique learning styles and play preferences, and how we can support them by modifying environments to help them succeed. Let our kiddos guide the way, no matter the age, play paves the way for success. As play skills evolve, so do language skills. By providing support to our kiddos, we build trust and a relationship with them by acknowledging and celebrating their strengths and efforts, rather than putting the burden on them to change.

Conclusion: Embracing Neurodiversity in Every Child’s Journey

Neurodiversity-affirming practices are crucial for promoting children’s neurodiversity whilst fostering an inclusive, supportive, and nurturing environment. By creating a safe and accepting atmosphere, providing sensory play, opportunities for collaboration, understanding diversity, and offering positive reinforcement, and feedback, children can develop confidence, social skills, emotional regulation, and cognitive growth. Above all, sensitive listening to each child’s unique needs and taking individualized approaches to teaching and providing care for children can help foster inclusivity, empowerment, and success.

With the right support in place, neurodiverse children can thrive and reach their full potential. At Valued Voices, we provide assessments to identify strengths and challenges in neurodiverse children, as well as therapy programs tailored to their specific needs. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our services and how we can help your child.




Sholeh Shahinfar is the Founder of Valued Voices, a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, Child Communication Specialist and Certified Oral Motor Therapist. She is passionate about uplifting children’s voices in the world and inspiring self-expression. In her free time, Sholeh embraces a vegan lifestyle, loves going to the ocean, exploring nature with her pup Kobe, practicing yoga, traveling, and spending time with her loved ones. 



Genna has been with Valued Voices since 2019, she joined the family after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in communication sciences and disorders from Pacific University in Oregon. Genna has always been passionate about helping give opportunities to others and believes all children have a joyous light inside them that deserves to be shown to the world. She knows that giving people the chance to express themselves allows them to reach new heights internally and in their communities.


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(949) 776-7010

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