"How will I know when it's time to tell my children about their Asperger's/Autism diagnoses?"
"What should I say if my child asks me a question about autism?"
"Won't it just hurt his self-esteem to know a diagnosis? How does having a label help?"
"What's the best way to tell my children about their diagnoses? What shouldn't I do?"
Parents call AANE with these and similar questions everyday. They want to help their children understand themselves--understand how their diagnoses may affect them--but they also worry about what happens next. I posed the question of why parents should tell their children about an Asperger's diagnosis to my 18-year-old son, Noah, who was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 3 years old. With the help of our dog, Lavender, this is what he had to say…
- Although Noah talks about how things aren't always "his fault" he doesn't mean that he doesn't take responsibility for his actions. He means that he doesn't feel bad about himself when something is particularly hard for him (like hand writing or socializing with new people). Most people do not use Asperger's/Autism as an excuse, but use it to explain and self advocate.
- Before parents disclose to their children they need to be comfortable and understand Asperger's/Autism/ADHD or any other related diagnosis.
- It helps to point out that other people have a mixture of strengths and challenges--your children aren't the only ones who struggle AND their struggles don't negate their strengths.
- Disclosure talks are similar to sex education talks. Short, developmentally appropriate, clear, ask if your child has any questions and leave the door open for future conversations.
- There's no one way to "disclose." If the first conversation doesn't go well, you will have another opportunity to try again.
Looking for more information on disclosure? Check out the disclosure chapter in Parenting without Panic. You can join our Parenting without Panic community on Facebook.