Neuro-Adversity: Ramblings of a Child Therapist

Mel LK
4 min readFeb 24, 2024

I am a neurodiversity-affirming therapist and social worker,

so the world does not always understand my clinical perspective when I put it into practice.

What people call “being too nice,” I call “unconditional positive regard.”

When others consider my clinical style “coddling,”

I call it “exercising emotional co-regulation to both model AND help kids practice soothing their own nervous system dysregulation in real-time, thus building up their tolerance to handle elevated cortisol levels a.k.a. stress in future circumstances where caregivers are not present.”

When others consider my clinical style “promoting codependency,”

I call it “giving kids exactly what they developmentally need according to neuroscience to feel safe and be successful – using the power of therapeutic use of self to foster their amygdala’s neuroception of safety and stretch their autonomic nervous system’s window of tolerance so that they can finally access, learn, and practice skills with their prefrontal cortex that will ultimately increase their independence long-term.”

When others call me “too caring,”

I call me “putting interpersonal neurobiology into praxis via establishing trusting, compassionate relationships with kids and families that serve as a vehicle to help them meet their treatment goals and thrive.”

When others dislike me giving kids a hug who ask,

I call this “stimulating release of the regulating neurotransmitter oxytocin and responding positively to their ability to exercise a coping skill, not to mention proactively restoring neural pathways, and promoting neuroplasticity in the primitive areas of the brain via appropriate, ethical touch that our isolated, individualist, Western society sorely lacks and that Dr. Bruce Perry discusses as being universally necessary for healthy brain development for children in his neurosequential model of therapeutics.”

When others consider my clinical style “too playful or silly,”

I call it “adhering to groundbreaking neuroscientific developments that posit play has a foundational role in bolstering social-emotional development and developing basic emotional regulation and impulse control skills – because our nervous systems are like muscles and play is like kid’s weight training!”

When others consider my clinical style “overly feminine/motherly,”

I say that “caring deeply about children’s development does not require eschewing professional boundaries or ethics, that being a therapist does not require me to be coldly clinical or detachedly cerebral, and that falling on antiquated sexist perceptions of certain naturally occurring human traits across genders is unnecessary.”

When others consider my personality “too happy,”

I call it “co-regulatory.”

And then there’s the kids.

What people call “disorder,” I call “neurodivergence.”

What people label “crazy/rude kids,”

I depersonalize and call this “kids who likely possess a shortage of of the brain’s neurotransmitter dopamine, or an enlarged physical structure of the amygdala due to trauma, or a lack of working memory due to elevated cortisol that has impacted the development of the hippocampus, or decreased grey matter in the cortex due to abuse, or…”

What people call “being an angry/mean kid,” I call “a child who frequently experiences an internal neuroception of threat and engages in aggression as an adaptive strategy to feel safe – a symptom with a variety of potential deeper, root origins that we can work to identify and healthily address, which may or may not be known to them.”

What people call “kid’s misbehavior,” I call “lagging skills, unsolved problems, unfulfilled needs, adaptive neurophysiological reactions due to trauma, and/or results of normative brain development – that most times is not purposeful, willful, or intentional according to famous child psychologist Dr. Mona Delahooke.”

What people call “attention-seeking” in a kid,

I call “connection-seeking because we are all primitively, neurobiologically wired to seek and develop primarily with the aid of human connection that makes us feel safe, seen, and soothed, as Dr. Daniel Siegel famously postulates.”

When people equate child-centricity with boundaryless child anarchy,

or misbehavior with intentional immorality,

or healthy attachment with codependency,

or emotions with anti-science,

or relationships with anti-professionalism,

it shows that their black-and-white imagination –

reinforced by our anti-child, patriarchal society that deems emotions “weak” –

is what is lacking.

We can be both compassionate and scientific,

right-brained and left-brained,

logical and emotional,

factual and loving,

relational and professional,

employing both freedom and boundaries,

avoiding both full chaos and full rigidity,

integrated brains capable of complexity.

I am a neurodiversity-affirming therapist

and social worker.

And I will keep putting this into practice

despite our anti-child, patriarchal, ableist society.

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Mel LK

Married lesbian leftist foster mom who loves Jesus. Incoming doctorate student with an LMSW. Book lover.