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Understood asks parents to be the reason kids thrive

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Despite more than 70 million Americans — including 1 in 5 kids — having learning and thinking differences, there are still harmful stigmas and misconceptions associated with neurodiversity.

New research from Understood.org’s Neurodiversity and Stigma Study found that among parents with neurodivergent children, more than half (55%) are afraid to tell others about their child’s learning differences because of associated biases, and 69% say that stigmas negatively impact their child’s mental well-being. Three in five parents agree that they’ve seen their child or another child with learning differences referred to as “lazy” or “not smart.” 

These stigmas don’t only affect kids’ mental health. They also prevent many parents from giving their kids the support they need.

The same research conveys how big an impact parents can have when they get involved. Among parents who have become engaged around their kids’ learning and thinking differences, 80% report improvement in their kids’ lives.

So Understood launched its “Be the Reason” campaign to raise awareness of learning and thinking differences among parents who are skeptical or unaware that these differences exist. The campaign encourages them to connect with their kids around the stigmas and biases they may be facing — to be the reason their child thrives. 

The campaign features:

  • A #YouCanBeTheReason social media challenge for parents to help other parents get engaged. It’s led by social media influencers The Holderness Family, who share their personal experience with ADHD. The challenge encourages parents to share on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook about how they’ve helped their child thrive. 

  • Real stories to show the impact of the associated stigmas on kids. This includes a campaign website with a short film, plus real stories told by kids with learning differences.

  • Resources to help parents connect with their kids. These include a parent activity kit, with resources, tips, and conversation starters to help parents engage with their kids on understood.org/bethereason, and relevant articles on for/by.  

“Parent support is critical. Our research showed that a majority of parents of kids with learning differences said their child improved emotionally and academically when they engaged with their child around challenges they were facing,” said Dr. Andy Kahn, a licensed psychologist and Understood expert specializing in learning and thinking differences. “It’s important for us to provide parents with the tools and resources they need to mitigate these stigmas and be the reason their child thrives.”

Rachel Hirsh, a senior project manager at Understood who was diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, emphasizes the importance of parent support around their child’s experiences with neurodivergence. 

“When I was a kid, my parents were not advocates for me in the way that I needed them to be. Because of that, I internalized a lot of unhelpful narratives that really impacted my self-esteem and how I interacted with the world around me,” said Hirsh. 

Unfortunately, Hirsh’s story isn’t rare – it’s real and it’s all too common. Parents may not be the sole reason a child thrives, but their involvement is critical.

Taking that first step to initiate a conversation can be difficult for parents. As you look to engage with your child around differences or challenges they may be facing, check out some of our expert tips and resources to help.

Learn more about Understood.org’s Neurodiversity and Stigma Study, take the #YouCanBeTheReason social media challenge, and check out understood.org/BeTheReason for more information and resources. #YouCanBeTheReason as well. 

Reach out to media@understood.org with any questions or interest in interviews.

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