Tips for Fostering a Neurodivergent Child

When you welcome a neurodivergent child into your home as a foster carer, it can feel overwhelming trying to provide them with the care and support they need. Neurodivergent conditions like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and dyspraxia are unique for every child. Getting educated on their specific needs is an important first step.

Here are some tips to help make the process easier for both you and your neurodivergent foster child.

Educate Yourself

Before you begin fostering a child, make sure you fully understand what to expect, such as checking whether you can you work and foster and also the allowances you’re entitled to. 

The next step is to get more specific. Learn about your foster child’s specific neurodivergent condition. Understand the common challenges they may face and how it affects their behaviour, emotional regulation, learning, and social skills. Learn about any therapies, interventions, or medications that can help. Read advice from other foster carers of neurodivergent children. This will help you become a better advocate for your foster child.

Create Structure and Routine

Neurodivergent children often thrive on structure and routine. Create visual schedules to help them know what to expect throughout the day. Keep routines for mealtimes, bedtimes, and other activities consistent. Prepare them in advance for any changes or disruptions to the routine. Having things be predictable helps create a sense of safety and calm.

Provide Fidget Toys and Movement Breaks

Many neurodivergent children benefit from having fidget toys like stress balls, fidget spinners, or chewing necklaces. This gives their hands something to do while sitting still or concentrating. Also, build in sensory breaks and opportunities for movement, like jumping on a trampoline or going for a short walk. Finding productive ways to let them expend their extra energy can improve focus.

Adjust Your Communication Style

Be direct, concrete, and literal when communicating with your neurodivergent foster child. Avoid vague terms or abstract concepts as these can confuse them. Allow extra time for processing conversations and instructions. Provide positive reinforcement when they listen well or request clarification appropriately. Be patient and prepared to explain things multiple times. 

Find Therapeutic Interventions

See if your foster child qualifies for occupational therapy, speech therapy, social skills training, or other services through the NHS or local autism charities – your foster agency can advise on this. Therapists can provide exercises and strategies tailored to your child’s needs. Early intervention is ideal but therapies can help at any age.

Work Closely with Their School

Meet with your child’s teachers and support staff at school. Discuss any accommodations needed, like preferential seating, noise-cancelling headphones, or extra time on tests. Ask about an individualised education programme (IEP) to outline goals and supports. Communication with the school is essential for consistency between home and their classroom environment.

Connect with Other Parents

Find local support groups or online communities for foster carers of neurodivergent children. Sharing advice and experiences with those who understand can provide encouragement. You may get ideas for managing challenges as well as resources for services in your area. Knowing you aren’t alone makes the process less overwhelming.

With some preparation, education, and support from your foster agency, fostering a neurodivergent child can be exceptionally rewarding. Focus on identifying their unique needs and finding proven ways to help them thrive. Your support and acceptance as a foster carer can make a profound difference in their life.