Talking To Your Autistic Child About Autism

image: rainbow colored textured background with white text that reads: Talking to your Autistic child about autism.

image: rainbow colored textured background with white text that reads: Talking to your Autistic child about autism.

Should I tell my child that they are Autistic?

Yes

Your child already knows that they are different from most other people. They might not have a word for it, they might not be able to pinpoint what makes them different, but I have yet to meet an Autistic person who did not know instinctively and from a very young age that they were “different”.

Hiding this type of important information about themselves from your child is telling them that the thing that makes them “different” is not okay….in fact…it is a bad thing.

Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away, it just causes confusion, hurt and shame.

Will telling my child about their diagnosis just allow them to use it as an “excuse” to misbehave?

Autistic children are not using autism as an “excuse”. Autistic individuals have varying, diverse and complex needs. Just because you don’t understand a behavior does not mean it does not serve a purpose for your child. Presume competence from your child. Presume that they are doing the best that they can with the tools that you are giving them. When you accuse your child of using autism as “an excuse”, you are making dangerous assumptions about your child. You are not presuming competence and you are not doing all that you can to try to understand, accommodate and accept them for who they are.

Why do I need to label my child?

Labels are not inherently bad. Just because you assign a negative meaning to a label, does not make those who carry that label see it as negative or bad.

We all label ourselves in many ways every day. Labels can be quite useful, and can help us to find greater understanding of who we are.

Labels can be empowering.

Image: speech bubble with black text reads: “I don’t want to accommodate or label my child because then everyone will know my child is different!” text in middle of image reads: “Meanwhile….” Starburst looking white speech bubble with black text reads: Everyone, including your child already knows they are different! Your refusal to acknowledge that makes the child feel ashamed, makes others unable to understand and now you are just setting them up to fail.

How do I tell my child that they are Autistic?

Don’t sit your child down and scare them by having a big, serious one time conversation that will only make them feel afraid or uncomfortable. Do talk about autism openly and without shame or negativity.

Don’t cry. Do remember that your Autistic child is beautiful, amazing and perfect as they are. Why would you cry about that?

Don’t make your child be the only Autistic person your family knows. Find Autistic mentors for your child. Find Autistic adult friends. You will not regret it!

Don’t gloss over the fact that autism is a disability. Autistic people are disabled and disability is not shameful. Do talk about disability as natural…. as a part of human diversity. If you only talk about autism in terms of “super powers” or focus on abilities without acknowledging the very real difficulties of living an Autistic life, you are setting your child up for failure.

Don’t talk to your child’s siblings/friends/peers/etc. about their diagnosis INSTEAD of talking to your child first. Do respect your child’s wishes about who, how and when to disclose their private, personal information.

What can I do to help my child understand?

The most important thing that you can do is to listen to Autistic people!

Really, Really Like Me by Gretchen Leary is a good book about differences that could be a starting point to talk about these things with younger children.

I Love Being My Own Autistic Self by Landon Bryce is a good resource to talk about autism with kids who are a little bit older.

Nick Walker’s Advice to Young Autistics: Stick Around & Be Awesome!

Letters To Autistic Kids is a blog project featuring letters to Autistic kids from Autistic kids and adults.

Emma is a young Autistic woman who blogs about her life at Emma’s Hope Book.

Henry is a young man who writes at Ollibean. You can find some of his posts here.

If you know of other resources or advice for Autistic kids, please post in the comments!

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About Lei

PACLA is an Autistic friendly space dedicated to guiding parents toward respectful supports and accommodations for their Autistic children through the concepts of gentle parenting and a belief in the value of neurodiversity.

Posted on June 22, 2015, in Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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