Coming to Terms with an Autism Diagnosis
There are a lot of questions and concerns that arise when first learning about an autism diagnosis. After understanding the diagnosis, an important decision lies ahead.
Should there be openness? Or should the diagnosis be hidden?
We aren't here to judge anyone's beliefs or what they think is right. However, it is important to consider the long-term ramifications of keeping autism a secret.
Why do people hide an autism diagnosis?
Whether you receive the autism diagnosis yourself or are told that your child has autism, there are a number of reasons why you might keep this a secret. One is the stigma that is so often attached to anyone on the autism spectrum. Many fear that they will be defined by their condition, which can be an infuriating and debilitating experience by itself. To make matters worse, people with autism can sometimes be treated poorly and are subject to cruel bullying and mocking. Even those with good intentions can participate in demeaning behaviors in an attempt to make someone with autism feel "safe" (or in an effort to prevent "setting them off"). This can feel just as bad as outright mocking. Many on the autism spectrum choose to hide to avoid these uncomfortable situations.
The unintended consequences
It can be completely understandable why one would hide an autism diagnosis. However, there are some negative consequences to doing so. Trying to hide such an integral part of yourself can be very difficult, and can take a great toll on your mental health.
You spend day after day in fear that someone will notice something "off" about you or your child. This leads to constant stress and eventually you will feel even worse. Another consequence that can be harmful is that hiding autism can prevent people from getting the help they need.
A child with autism may need certain therapies or learning environments to succeed. Sometimes parents are afraid to put their children in special education classes for fear that their child may be ridiculed. Autistic children too can be afraid of being put into special education for this very reason. However, this could really hold someone back educationally, which has several bad implications on one's future.
There is one last negative that most people don't consider. In truth, the only way to make people more aware of the autism spectrum is for them to know what it's like. People have to be able to put faces to the condition, to understand that those on the spectrum are people, too. They have goals, ambitions, fears, desires, and at the end of the day they just want to find what makes them happy.
They may have unique struggles and obstacles to overcome, but that doesn't make them any less human. No one should have the power to make those with autism hide who they are. There is no shame in being on the autism spectrum, and part of showing that is accepting that some of us are on it. More importantly, we have to show others struggling with their diagnosis that there is nothing to be ashamed of about being on the spectrum.
Coming out and helping others do the same
It can be incredibly difficult to talk about how you or your child are on the autism spectrum, and many people can get stuck trying to think about the best way to bring it up. The truth is that there is no "right way" to do this, and different methods will work for different people.
Read on for a few ideas that you can think about.