Understood.org launched the ‘Be the Reason’ campaign to help parents support their neurodivergent children

How the campaign addressed stigma through social media campaigns. 

Helping neurodiverse kids

Even well-meaning parents can have trouble recognizing the signs of neurodiversity in their children and can feel overwhelmed by what to do next. 

Understood.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently, created its 2022 “Be the Reason” campaign to bridge those gaps. The campaign focused on educating parents, increasing their awareness and turning skeptics to supporters. 

According to Understood.org’s Neurodiversity and Stigma Study, 6 million of the 25 million parents of neurodiverse children are skeptical or unaware of their child’s learning differences. Even among those who are aware, more than 50% of parents with neurodivergent children are concerned about telling others because of potential biases, the study found.  



Understood.org created “Be the Reason,” an original short film, to show a teen whose parents don’t understand the challenges they face as a neurodivergent person. 

The nearly 2-minute film featured a neurodivergent cast, including Miya Kofo, a real teen who was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school. The film was featured on the campaign’s landing page, Understood.org social media channels and in digital ads. 

The campaign also featured an original song by The Holderness Family and sung by Penn Holderness, a social media influencer who shared his experiences living with ADHD.  

The team was a winner of an advocacy or awareness campaign in PR Daily’s Nonprofit Communications Awards last September. 

Here’s what you can learn from the campaign. 

Humanizing abstract concepts 

Nathan Friedman, co-president and chief marketing officer of Understood.org, told PR Daily that the campaign used the film and song to share stories of what it feels like to have ADHD. 

The film opens with a closeup of Kofo’s tennis shoes lightly bouncing under her classroom desk as she struggles to sit still during a lesson. Kofo then fidgets and taps her fingers.    

“I can’t seem to focus, so I smile,” Kofo said in a voiceover. “Why does school seem to come easy for other kids when I feel like I’m barely getting by?”  

Kofo narrates feeling misunderstood, especially by her parents who tell her to “try harder.” 

“Mom, Dad, I’m depending on you to help me figure this all out,” she said later looking directly at the camera near the end. “Be my reason.” 

Friedman said that the film brought Kofo’s experiences to the forefront. 

“It’s from her point of view and it really talks about what happens when her parents ignored it. It’s a real-life story. These are not actors,” Friedman said. 

In addition to the actors, the crew and director were also neurodiverse.  

“I think it’s important to show stories from people about people who can relate to the story that we’re telling,” Friedman said.  

Understood.org distributed the video through its social media channels, websites and organizational partners. 

The “Be the Reason” film garnered 45.3 million views, with 24.6 million people finishing the entire video. Both figures exceeded goals.   

Using social media

Understood.org took to social media platforms with a #YouCanBeTheReason challenge parents to engage other parents and raise awareness about the important role they play. The Holderness Family kicked off the challenge along with other influencers Understood.org pulled from their influencer roster. The challenge encouraged parents to post on social media ways they helped their children with ADHD thrive. 

Friedman said collaborating with The Holderness Family was a natural fit because Penn Holderness freely shared his experiences of being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and had credibility on the topic. 

“It was really about how do we work with them to cultivate a community of parents and parenting influencers, to share how they can help shape their child’s life so they can thrive,” Friedman said. 

Friedman said that Understood.org also engaged their parenting influencer network to share how their children can thrive and tips on how to make that happen. 

“It was kind of a cascade effect, starting with The Holderness Family reaching other influencers that we work with and then also amplifying what we do on our social channels to our more than a million people who follow us on different platforms,” Friedman said.  

#YouCanBeTheReason posts earned 2.2 million impressions and generated thousands of positive comments. 

Friedman said that the campaign wanted to encourage parents to do what they can, when they can, to help their children achieve their full potential. 

“I think the important thing to realize is that as we learn more, it is becoming critically important that parents take that first step and that parents understand what their child is going through so they can ensure that they thrive,” Friedman said. “There’s a lot of little things (they can do) that can go a long way.” 

Sherri Kolade is a writer and conference producer at Ragan Communications. She enjoys watching old films, reading and building an authentically curated life. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR/comms speaker in mind for one of Ragan’s events? Email her at sherrik@ragan.com.


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