Flourishing through Positive Routines: A Thriving Foundation for Neurodiverse Children

How can we engage and empower all children regardless of how their brain processes information? We share three positive psychology strategies to incorporate into your family routine to enhance family life for both neurotypical and neurodivergent brains including those with ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia etc.

Zeena Hicks

8/9/20235 min read

Some of my greatest passions lie in the multifaceted world of neurodiversity and finding ways to embrace the power of positive psychology to educate the world so ALL children and adults flourish. In this article, we'll explore how integrating positive routines can enhance the lives of both neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals without intellectual impairment, to build a foundation for flourishing, boosting growth, happiness, and overall wellbeing.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in neurological traits, such as cognitive, sensory, and behavioural differences, present in the human population. The term emphasises embracing and valuing the diverse ways all individuals think, learn, and process information, including those with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and others, as part of the normal human experience. The term has been extended over the years to separate out neurotypical and neurodivergent individuals, which in one part is useful for accessing additional resources and support, but it has created a further divide between what is perceived as ‘normal’.

Many neurodivergent individuals without intellectual impairment, function very similarly to neurotypical people, so often differences can go unnoticed, and what might be seen as disruptiveness, disconnection, social awkwardness, or erratic performance, may induce unhelpful labelling of people such as lazy, stupid, defensive, disorganised, inefficient, withdrawn, or aloof.

Recognising that everyone is neurodiverse is a good start, and accepting that not everyone will process information, behave, and respond in the same way is key. Creating a psychologically safe, compassionate, and understanding environment for all young people is imperative and building positive routines bespoke to each individual’s interests and strengths can make the difference between them thriving or surviving. Positive psychology offers an accessible foundation and unified approach that can be adapted to suit each individual’s preference.

Embracing Neurodiversity: A Path to Empowerment

Positive psychology starts with building awareness, accepting, and compassionately embracing the beauty of neurodiversity. Each child's unique mind holds limitless potential, and by understanding and recognising each individual’s strengths, we lay the foundation for a flourishing journey. By emphasising the positive nuances of neurodiversity, we can promote resilience, optimism, and a growth mindset in both neurodivergent and neurotypical children and their caregivers.

The Science of Positivity on Neurodivergent Brains

Research in positive psychology has shown that cultivating positive emotions can lead to enhanced cognitive functioning and improved wellbeing (1). When children experience positive emotions through routines, their brains are primed for optimal learning and emotional regulation (2). Positive routines provide a structured and safe environment where all children can thrive and explore their unique abilities.

Cultivating Positive Routines: A Journey of Growth

Positive routines are not simply about repetitive actions; they are about creating intentional experiences that enable positive emotions and wellbeing. Instead of imposing rigid structures, encourage the co-creation of routines that resonate with each child's interests and preferences. By doing so, we empower children to actively engage in their routines and take ownership of their daily lives.

The Power of Strength-Based Routines

Positive psychology looks at what is right with people, focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. When establishing routines for children, identify and build on their unique strengths. If a child has a passion for drawing, find ways to integrate art into their daily routine. By incorporating their interests, you can create a sense of purpose and fulfilment, leading to higher motivation and engagement (3).

Thriving in a Structured Environment

Positive psychology supports the idea that structure and routine provide a stable foundation for personal growth and development (4). For neurodivergent children, a structured environment can be especially beneficial. By providing a predictable and safe space, you can help reduce anxiety and enhance their ability to navigate daily challenges effectively.

Cultivating Positive Relationships through Routines

Positive psychology heightens the importance of social connections and positive relationships. Encourage children to engage in routines that involve interactions with family members, friends, and peers. These positive social experiences promote a sense of belonging and foster emotional wellbeing.

The Role of Gratitude in Routines

Incorporate gratitude practices into daily routines. Whether through a morning gratitude exercise or a reflective moment before bedtime, expressing gratitude develops a positive outlook and nurtures resilience in all children (5). As they acknowledge the good in their lives, children develop the ability to cope with challenges effectively.

Mindfulness in Daily Routines

Introduce mindfulness practices within routines to promote emotional regulation and self-awareness. Encourage children to be present in each moment, cultivating a deep appreciation for the here and now. Mindfulness empowers them to navigate emotions and experiences with greater ease and grace (6).

Celebrating Progress and Growth

Positive psychology celebrates progress and personal growth as markers of success. Encouraging children to celebrate their achievements, no matter how small, will nurture positive efficacy throughout life (7). By focusing on their development and unique milestones, we foster self-compassion and self-esteem.

Here are three simple positive psychology activities that can encourage positive routines and wellbeing in children:

Strengths-Based Daily Reflection:

This activity focuses on identifying and celebrating the child's strengths in their daily routines.


a. Introduce the concept of strengths and explain that everyone possesses unique abilities that make them special.

b. Create a strengths list together, noting the child's strengths and interests (e.g., creativity, kindness, problem-solving).

c. At the end of each day or week, encourage the child to reflect on their routines and identify moments when they used their strengths.

d. Celebrate these moments by acknowledging and praising the child for their positive contributions.

e. Encourage them to find opportunities to use their strengths in their future routines, fostering a sense of purpose and empowerment.

Gratitude Journaling:

This activity cultivates gratitude and positivity in daily routines, promoting emotional wellbeing.


a. Provide the child with a gratitude journal or notebook.

b. Every evening before bedtime or during a specific routine time, ask the child to write down three things they are grateful for that day.

c. Encourage them to be specific and reflective about each item on their gratitude list.

d. Share your own gratitude list with the child to set a positive example.

e. Over time, the child will develop a gratitude habit, which can lead to improved emotional regulation and overall happiness.

Mindful Breathing Breaks:

This activity introduces mindfulness practices into the child's daily routines, promoting relaxation and emotional self-awareness.


a. Teach the child simple mindful breathing techniques, such as counting breaths or focusing on the sensation of breathing.

b. Set aside specific times during the day for mindful breathing breaks, such as before starting a new activity or during transition periods.

c. Guide the child through the breathing exercises, encouraging them to focus on the present moment and let go of distractions.

d. Use visual cues, such as a calming timer or a special breathing toy, to make the activity engaging and enjoyable.

e. With regular practice, mindful breathing can become a valuable tool for the child to manage stress and emotions during their routines.

Note: When implementing these activities, it's essential to consider the individual needs and preferences of both neurotypical and neurodivergent children. Adapt the exercises as necessary to ensure they are accessible and enjoyable for the child (8). Additionally, share your routines and engage other parents, caregivers, and educators in the process to create a supportive and consistent environment for positive routines.


(1) Fredrickson, B. L. (2000). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & treatment, 3(1), 1a.

(2) Berkovits, L., Eisenhower, A., & Blacher, J. (2017). Emotion regulation in young children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 47, 68-79.

(3) Hai, T., & Climie, E. A. (2022). Positive child personality factors in children with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 26(3), 476-486

(4) Stobäus, C. D., & Mosquera, J. J. (2014). Positive Psychology and Emotional Schedule: Building Healthy Self-Construction. Psychology.

(5) Leckman, J. F. (2007). Nurturing resilient children. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 29, 5-6.

(6) Natesh, B., Rajesh, S. K., & Nagendra, H. R. (2014). Relationship between state mindfulness and working memory in children. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(3), 310.

(7) Pajares, F. (2006). Self-efficacy during childhood and adolescence. Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents, 5, 339-367.