Telling a Child He or She Has Autism
There is no greater love than the love a parent has for their child. A parent wants them to be happy, smart, successful, and thrive in anything that they decide to do in life. Moms and dads want them to enjoy their childhood, make friends, and be able to fit in.
Above all, parents want their kids to be healthy. However, the thing about life is that it is unpredictable.
An Autism diagnosis can be frightening and overwhelming, especially at first. It may take you some time to come to terms with their diagnosis yourself because you will likely be flooded with different thoughts and concerns.
Deciding when to discuss
Deciding when and how to tell your child he or she has autism can be rather tricky. This is because for children with autism, age is not really the main issue at hand. Telling them too early may trigger confusion and yet telling them too late, as they may be sensitive to anything suggesting they are different. Some children may be ready to talk about their diagnosis much earlier than others. The most important thing is for you to be able to identify your child’s sense of self-awareness. If your child is verbal, they may be aware of how they differ from other children. In turn, they may have some questions for you! In such instances, putting a name to these differences may turn out to be a positive thing. It may help them to underpin their identity, confidence, and ability to connect with others.
The main advantage of talking to your child about their autism diagnosis is that you are preparing them for any curveballs that may be thrown their way. Hearing about it from someone else, such as a friend or teacher, or overhearing a conversation can be quite upsetting. Your child may arrive to their own conclusions about their diagnosis and start to perceive their differences as a negative thing. Therefore, by taking the initiative and talking to them about autism, you can reassure them of their strengths, rather than their limitations as possibly seen through their eyes and through the eyes of others. “You can explain that his diagnostic evaluation provided important information on how to use his strengths to meet his challenges,” said Lauren Elder, psychologist and Autism Speaks assistant director for dissemination science.
While there is no right, wrong, or easy way to tell your child about their autism diagnosis, there are a few pointers to take into consideration.
Read on for some tips, and to learn how to best support your child with autism before, during, and after discussing their new diagnosis.