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The Tornado Moment

Personal Perspective: After devastation, finding a path to inclusivity.

Key points

  • Neurodiverse individuals are five times more likely to attempt suicide than neurotypical peers.
  • Emotional processing may contribute to mental health challenges in neurodiverse individuals.
  • Enhancing analytical processing in neurodiverse individuals could improve their emotional well-being.
Source: JPlenio/Pixabay

The path that led me to launch this page here was born from a place of devastation. The word devastation may be an adjective more appropriately applied to natural disasters. Yet, it feels like a fit for me. I was 25 years old when my second child, a daughter, was born unexpectedly with Down's syndrome. A "mistake of nature" was how the diagnosis was broken to anxious parents like me at the time by the Head of the ICU. I felt like a tornado had hit. I fell into a dark tunnel of profound sadness after her birth, feeling completely ill-equipped for the challenge ahead and desperately sad about the child I had wanted and, at the time, didn't feel I had received. It took almost a year to reconnect with the world and attempt to find joy in it, which was when my older child, a boy aged 2, was diagnosed as moderately autistic. Another tornado. I was 26 years old and felt completely out of my depth.

That's the funny thing about emotional turmoil: It either paralyses you or motivates you. The day my husband and I received my son's diagnosis, I will admit I hyperventilated for the first time. After that, however, I was motivated to find a way to help him connect with the world around him by trusting the one thing I had forgotten about most: my instinct. Every step taken since that time has led me to here. Today, at age 20, my son is fully independent, works and manages his own finances, has a wide circle of friends, and lectures on all things autism-related in order to help break down social barriers that exist between the neurodiverse and neurotypical communities, paving the way for a more inclusive society.

I feel a responsibility to share how I have helped my son find a way to connect and play a part in the world around him. Through the establishment of my private practice, Small Steps; Big Changes, I have combined my personal and professional experiences with my academic training to educate parents of neurodiverse and neurotypical children on how to navigate emotional turmoil. I focus on reducing emotional processing and subsequent behavioural problems by teaching self-regulation skills and the concept of choice. These principles lead to meaningful interactions with others, thereby enhancing emotional well-being.

This is of critical importance for the neurodiverse community, as recent statistics suggest that neurodiverse individuals are five times more likely to attempt suicide than neurotypical peers. These figures are staggering and raise important questions regarding current treatment methodologies and their efficacy in reducing the impact of emotional processing for neurodiverse individuals. I will explore ways to mitigate emotional processing through the concept of choice, strategies for its application, and the role it may play in enhancing well-being.

Thank you for reading.


Croen, L. A., Zerbo, O., Qian, Y., Massolo, M. L., Rich, S., Sidney, S., & Kripke, C. (2015). The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism, 19(7), 814-823.

Hirvikoski, T., Mittendorfer-Rutz, E., Boman, M., Larsson, H., Lichtenstein, P., & Bölte, S. (2016). Premature mortality in autism spectrum disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 208(3), 232-238.

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