Welcoming others into the home is a sign of hospitality.

And being a good host means preparing for a number of experiences and situations. When families visit with neurodivergent children, it may be an occasion that hosts haven’t had happen before.

“We know that everyone develops differently, or else we would all act and respond to things in exactly the same way,” says Nicole Whiting, the senior licensed clinical program director for the Children’s Home Society of Florida.

“Simply put, neurodivergent means that the brain works differently. A neurodivergent child, for example, may have unique challenges with communicating. But they may also have unique strengths,” she says.

“I have worked with individuals who are described as neurodivergent, and one excelled in computer programming, and the other excelled in drawing and using art to communicate.”

When welcoming a neurodivergent child into your home, the most important thing to consider is to listen to the child’s needs, adds Whiting.

“Take the time to ask those who know the child about things like their history, preferred communication style, routines and safe activities. People who are neurodivergent may feel misunderstood or left out. Be careful with your words to avoid labels or assumptions,” she says.

Understanding that a person, in particular a child, has these special needs is key when opening your front door and inviting folks in.


  1. Ask parents ahead of time what they can share about their child’s neurodiversity, including what special needs would make them feel more comfortable when visiting. This includes any sensory sensitivities.

  2. Welcome at the door with a big smile and soft voice. Communicate in other ways, perhaps with a gesture like clutching your hands over your heart. Know beforehand if the child minds a touch, like a pat on the shoulder or hug.

  3. Set an inviting scene by adjusting to any sensory sensitivities. This may include adjusting room lighting, noise in the room from television and other devices, various seating options and the like.

  4. Create a space for the child to allow them to be comfortable and to be themselves. This may simply be an area of the room close, but separate, from where others are.

  5. If the child wants to engage with the group, find out shared interests and connect through commonality in your communications. Maybe you like gardening, and they like flowers and trees.

  6. Provide a consistent setting throughout the visit. Keep the lighting and the noise level the same and allow free space, but be open when the child wants to engage.

  7. Listen when the child expresses their likes and dislikes and their needs and wants. Assist the parents in helping the child when action is necessary.

  8. Understand that some neurodivergent children self-soothe in ways like moving their hands about, rocking back and forth and walking around the room. It’s a way to feel better if they are getting too much stimulation or not enough.

  9. Know that some children may express themselves, especially their needs or wants, in disruptive ways like making loud or silly talk or other noises. Look to their parents to understand what’s happening and help with the situation.

  10. Be flexible and be patient with the child.