Updated: Nov 8
How Neurodivergent Teens Can Thrive Socially in a Neurotypical World
The teenage years are a time of great change and challenge for everyone. But for neurodivergent teens, who have different ways of thinking and learning than the neurotypical majority, the social aspect of growing up can be especially difficult.
Teens who are neurodivergent may be autistic or dyslexic, or they may have ADHD, Tourette's, or other neurological differences that affect how they communicate, behave, and interact with others. These teens often face stigma, discrimination, and misunderstanding from their peers, teachers, and even family members. They may also struggle with finding their identity and fitting in with the social norms and expectations of their age group.
But being neurodivergent does not mean being antisocial or unhappy. Neurodivergent teens have unique strengths, talents, and perspectives that can enrich their lives and the lives of others. They just need to find the right balance between being themselves and adapting to the social environment.
In this article, we will share some tips and advice on how neurodivergent teens can thrive socially in a neurotypical world.
Your Social Needs as a Neurodivergent Teen
One of the first steps to having a fulfilling social life is to understand your own social needs and preferences. How much social interaction do you need and enjoy? What kind of activities and people do you like? What are your boundaries and limits?
There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Everyone has different social styles and personalities, regardless of being neurodivergent or neurotypical. The key is to be honest with yourself and respect your feelings.
For example, some neurodivergent teens may prefer one-on-one conversations over large group settings. Some may prefer solo sports or hobbies over team sports or clubs. Some may need more time alone to recharge after socializing. Others might be very social, and being active with friends might be very important to them. There is no one way to be neurodivergent.
These are all valid choices that should not be judged or forced to change by others. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing or what society expects you to do. You can find a way of socializing that suits you best.
Finding Your Tribe as a Neurodivergent Teen
Another important step to having a satisfying social life is to find your tribe. Your tribe is the group of people who share your interests, values, and goals. They are the people who accept you for who you are, support you through your challenges, and celebrate your successes.
Finding your tribe may not be easy, especially if you feel like an outsider in your school or community. But it is not impossible, either. Thanks to the internet and social media, you can connect with people from all over the world who have similar experiences and passions as you.
You can also look for local groups or events that cater to your interests or hobbies. For example, if you love music or art, you can join a band or an art class. If you love chess or video games, you can join a chess club or a gaming community.
Finding your tribe does not mean you have to limit yourself to only hanging out with people who are exactly like you. Diversity is a good thing, and you can learn a lot from people who are different from you. But it does mean that you have a safe space where you can be yourself and feel understood.
Embracing Your Differences as a Neurodivergent Teen
One of the biggest challenges that neurodivergent teens face is dealing with the negative attitudes and stereotypes that surround their conditions. Many people still have misconceptions about what it means to be neurodivergent, and they may treat neurodivergent teens as inferior, abnormal, or defective.
This can take a toll on your self-esteem and confidence, and it might even make you feel ashamed of your differences. But you don’t have to let other people’s ignorance define you. You can embrace your differences as part of your identity and be proud of who you are.
Being neurodivergent means that you have a unique way of seeing and interacting with the world. It means that you have strengths and abilities that others may not have. It means that you have something valuable and different to offer to society and humanity.
You can learn more about your condition and how it affects you by doing your research or talking to professionals. You can also connect with other neurodivergent people who have gone through similar struggles and successes as you. You can find role models and mentors who can inspire you and guide you.
You can also educate others about your condition and challenge the myths and stereotypes that exist. You can share your story and perspective with others and help them understand you better. You can advocate for your rights and needs and contribute to making a positive difference in the world.
Being Flexible and Adaptable as a Neurodivergent Teen
While embracing your differences is important, it is also important to be flexible and adaptable in different social situations. Being flexible and adaptable means that you can adjust your behavior and expectations if you are both comfortable and, in the moment, capable, according to the context and the people involved.
This does not mean that you have to change who you are or pretend to be someone else. It means that you might consider being aware of the social cues and norms that govern different situations and making some adjustments with them in mind.
For example, if you are in a classroom, you will be expected to follow the rules and guidelines of the teacher and the school. If you are at a party, you should consider following the etiquette and manners of the host and the guests. If you are in a job interview, you should realize that you will be expected to follow the protocol and standards of the employer and the industry.
Being flexible and adaptable can help you avoid conflicts and misunderstandings with others and make a positive impression on them. It can also help you learn new skills and experiences that can benefit you in the future.
Of course, being flexible and adaptable does not mean that you have to tolerate or accept anything that goes against your values or well-being. You still have the right to say no, to set boundaries, and to walk away from situations that are harmful or uncomfortable for you.
Seeking Help as a Neurodivergent Teen
Finally, one of the most important things that neurodivergent teens can do to thrive socially is to seek help when needed. Socializing can be hard for anyone, but especially for neurodivergent teens, who face more challenges and obstacles than others.
Sometimes, you may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or lonely. Sometimes, you may face bullying, discrimination, or abuse. Sometimes, you may need advice, guidance, or support.
In these situations, you don’t have to suffer alone or in silence. You can seek help from people who care about you and want to help you. These people can be your family, friends, teachers, counselors, therapists, coaches, or mentors.
They can listen to you, empathize with you, comfort you, encourage you, advise you, or refer you to other resources or professionals. They can help you cope with your emotions, solve your problems, improve your skills, or achieve your goals.
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness or failure. It is a sign of strength and courage. It is a sign that you value yourself and your well-being. It is a sign that you want to grow and succeed.
Neurodivergent teens have a lot to offer the world, but they also face a lot of challenges in their social lives. They need to find a balance between being themselves and adapting to their social environment.
By following these tips, neurodivergent teens can thrive socially in a neurotypical world:
Understand your social needs and preferences
Find your tribe
Embrace your differences
Be flexible and adaptable
Seek help when needed
These tips can help neurodivergent teens build meaningful relationships, express their individuality, develop their potential, and enjoy their lives.