Wednesday 1 February 2023

Your Child is Not Broken {Book Review}

*This post contains an affiliate link and I may receive a small commission if you click and buy. It won't cost you any extra*

Your Child is Not Broken is the Sunday Times bestseller book by Heidi Mavir. A late-identified neurodivergent adult, Heidi is parent to an Autistic/ADHD teenager, and has trained as a SEN Advocate to help other families navigate their way round the EHCP process. She focuses on supporting families in securing Education Other Than At School (EOTAS - sometimes referred to as EOTIS, Education Other Than In School) and helping parents to become powerful advocates for their children.

white book cover with title your child is not broken in rainbow coloured capital letters and a marble with rainbow infinity symbol below

The book has an eye-catching front cover showing a marble with a rainbow infinity symbol, and I love the fact that it has been printed in Dyslexic font, designed to support Neurodivergent readers. There are ten chapters covering a wide variety of topics such as masking, burnout, school difficulties, gaslighting and diagnosis. The story of Heidi's fight for support for her child who began to struggle with attending secondary school is woven throughout the book, and other families' experiences with the system are shared. There are also examples of the kind of judgement from professionals that is levelled at families like ours every day.

"An education professional who I (wrongly) assumed was an 'expert', told me that the reason my son didn’t want to go to school was that he knew I was "a soft touch". She told me I needed to put my foot down. A CAMHS worker told me that when it came to his anxiety, we needed to teach him to "try harder in the face of adversity". More professionals than I can count told me that Theo needed to "build resilience". I was told that he needed to learn not to interrupt, not to ask so many questions, and not to be so sensitive. I was warned that he was making himself an obvious choice for bullies: Theo needed to try harder to "fit in", and not to draw attention to himself.

I was told that my child is broken.

The strapline of this book is 'Parent Your Neurodivergent Child Without Losing Your Marbles' and I think it's important to take that into consideration along with the title. Heidi is very clear in her book that the challenges that appear when parenting a neurodivergent child come from the surrounding environments and attitudes, not from the child themselves. 

White back cover of book with text Your child is not broken is the book for parents who need permission to do things differently

Heidi writes about how neurodivergent children find themselves in a world that is not built for them, a world full of sensory overwhelm and unwritten social rules. They are constantly being told that they are getting wrong and punished for it, when they don't instinctively know what the 'right' way is.

Like my daughter, Heidi's child wanted to go to school. They tried hard but the conditions and environment meant that they were unable to. Heidi writes about how it was a case of "can't, not won't" - a phrase that is well known by many in the PDA Community.

Your Child is Not Broken is brilliant. It's an honest, straight-talking, easy read that I know hundreds of thousands of parents and carers will relate to, especially those whose children fall into the 'Not Fine in School' bracket. I hope it gives more parents the confidence to push back against the attitudes of certain professionals and encourages them to take a moment to consider what is best for their children. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the system and society's expectations but Heidi gives compelling reasons for why we need to break that cycle.

Heidi runs a Facebook page called Education Otherwise Than At School - EOTAS Matters supporting SEN Families and regularly shares lots of helpful advice for parents of children who are not 'fine' in school. One particular comment from a recent Live video on Heidi's Facebook page has stuck in my mind and I think it is worth repeating more than once: 

"Your kid doesn't have to go to school."

In another video, Heidi talks about the latest push for 'Attendance Matters' and how that should be rephrased as 'Engaged Attendance Matters'. We should not be telling children that attendance is the most important target. Attendance is not more important than your child's mental health. 

A new inquiry by the Education Committee is investigating causes and possible solutions to the growing issue of children’s absence from school. The Education Committee Chair commented: 

“Missing school can seriously undermine a child’s education and future life chances. It is imperative that we take a nuanced and sympathetic look at the reasons why absence has become a growing problem. 

"Not only do children learn and socialise while in school, vulnerable youngsters are also kept out of harm’s way. We must look urgently at ways to reverse this damaging trend that appears to have worsened during the pandemic.  

“My colleagues and I will examine what innovative methods school leaders may be employing to help stop children and their families falling into a habit of missing school, with the risk of such habits becoming a downward spiral towards ‘severe’ absence. We will look at how targeted support can help to improve attendance and seek evidence as to what works both within and beyond the school system to create a positive culture of attendance.” 

Whilst I do agree school is important and helpful for some children, I need this team to understand why it doesn't work for others. My daughter does not have a 'habit' of missing school. The lack of suitable provision for her needs is why she has not been attending. 

One final quote from Heidi's book that I will finish on:

"Being that parent means being the parent your child needs you to be. It means protecting your relationship with them and putting their trust in you above the opinions of others. It means showing them they matter. It means doing things your own way. It means trusting your gut. It means practising self compassion and that takes… well… practice."

Heidi is one unstoppable woman who I highly recommend listening to; her website can be found at and she regularly posts live videos with lots of helpful information on her Facebook page. Your Child is Not Broken is available now from Amazon!

white book cover with title your child is not broken in rainbow coloured capital letters and a marble with rainbow infinity symbol below

As a footnote I'm also quickly going to mention a brand new book due out on February 2nd, called Square Pegs. Relevant to this topic of barriers to attendance, it covers inclusivity, compassion and fitting in, a guide for schools. See my post for more thoughts: Square Peg book review. I would love to see both of these books in schools, to help all those working in the system understand what the system can do to children...


  1. I really would love it if schools were to teach everyone about neurodiversity, autism, PDA etc and all the possible elements of people being different. Then, when they are about to become parents, it wont hit like a shock if their child is different, autistic or any variation. Then there wouldn't even be a concept of a child being 'broken' or anything of the sort.

    1. I agree, more educating at a younger age would be great!


Comments are always very much appreciated and can really help the conversation go further...