Advice on telling kids about their autism

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Mona Pereth
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01 Aug 2021, 8:29 pm

I just now ran into this thread on Twitter, in which one person responds to the following question by a parent:

Quote:
When do you think we should tell them? I want to tell my son when the time is right (he's 7) but not sure how much he'd understand yet and don't want to cause him anxiety by telling him he's 'different' when as far as I can tell he doesn't seem to be aware of any

One person says:

Quote:
This is the biggest confusion to me as an autistic person who was late-diagnosed -

The part where the parent is worried that telling them about their difference would cause their kid anxiety.

My entire childhood was anxiety because I didn't know I was autistic. Because I thought something was "wrong" with me, because there seemed to be something missing, things were harder and I was told they shouldn't be.

This person also says:

Quote:
To non-autistic parents out there -
You will not know when your autistic child feels different, especially if you never tell them that they're autistic. That is a complicated internal experience that an autistic 5-year-old, even a 13-year-old cannot easily articulate.

and:

Quote:
Autistic people need to know that there are other people like us and need to find community. We need to know why a lot of kids at school won't be friends with us. Why people bully us. Because if we don't know, we're going to think it's -our fault.-

and:

Quote:
So I know you, as a parent, are feeling anxious yourself about telling your kid. You're worried about screwing things up, saying the wrong thing.

And I just want to tell you that saying nothing is far worse than telling them anything.

Far, far worse.

Please tell them.

Another person says:

Quote:
And don‘t just tell your child they‘re autistic.

Explain to them what that means, age appropriately - and ongoing, because as they age, grow, develop, other things, new things will become relevant.

And get them contact to other autistic kids right away.

Make it a priority.

Another person says:

Quote:
I wish parents could see how dehumanizing it is to deny a kid access to basic self-knowledge. The adults around them get to know and let that impact how they react to the kid. It's so disempowering and self-doubt-creating for the kid to be left out of the convo abt their own life.

I agree with all of the above.


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DW_a_mom
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02 Aug 2021, 2:18 am

Agreed. It is very rare to come across a child who wishes their parent hadn't told them, but extremely common to find children damaged by their parents not having told them. It will always be case by case, but it is naive for any parent to think their child isn't aware they are different, and isn't busy reaching their own (often damaging) conclusions about what makes them different. It is all so easily solved with a simple "your brain works different" explanation. There is no good or bad in that explanation, and my son was immensely relieved to receive it at age 7.


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timf
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02 Aug 2021, 5:42 am

I am not sure a label would be that helpful. Rather a parent can identify any quality their child has for instructional or even corrective purposes. For example, a child that has explosive anger issues will have to learn more how to control them regardless of if they are melt-downs or not.

A child that has an exceptional focus may have to learn how to improve peripheral attention regardless of if they have Aspergers or not.

Children benefit most from parents that can identify their strengths and help them learn how to employ them as well as their weaknesses and learn how to manage them.



QuietThoughts
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02 Aug 2021, 6:31 am

Being told that I was "different" as a child (< 10) didn't really settle in on its own. I had to figure it out for myself, and that often transpired from an endless amount of disappointment.



SocOfAutism
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02 Aug 2021, 8:34 am

I don't think parents should tell their kids they "are" anything. You can say that their doctors have diagnosed them with this that or the other, but really it is up to them to decide when they are older. That is what I have told my son. He is 7, and honestly, many doctors have diagnosed him with many things, some of which are clearly just to justify treatment they want to try.

I think this is especially true with autism. I really do not think you can observationally diagnose autism. You can say the person "probably" is autistic and treat them accordingly, but you should always keep in mind that it may still be social anxiety or hyper sensitivity or something else. Each person has to mature enough as a person to see what fits.



DuckHairback
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14 Aug 2021, 6:29 am

My daughter is 7. She's undiagnosed but we're working towards it. She's just becoming aware, I think, that she struggles with things that other girls her age don't struggle with (mainly sensitivity to clothes and anxiety over leaving the house). I find it really hard to watch her and she's recently made comments about hating the way she is and even that she wishes she was dead (which I don't think she understands but is pretty awful to hear as a parent regardless). My instinct is to tell her as soon as we have a diagnosis so she can start to understand herself by that definition instead of comparing herself to other children.



SocOfAutism
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19 Aug 2021, 9:30 am

Duck- my son sometimes says really negative things about himself like that as well. He judges himself as being so different from other kids and then he always focuses on where he comes up short.

It seems to help him if other kids notice something special about him and call attention to that. Like how his little dude friend loves to wrestle him or his school friends ask him for reading help.

Maybe you could set up a playdate with one of your daughters friends where she can help them with something she is good at?



DuckHairback
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19 Aug 2021, 1:34 pm

SocOfAutism wrote:
Duck- my son sometimes says really negative things about himself like that as well. He judges himself as being so different from other kids and then he always focuses on where he comes up short.

It seems to help him if other kids notice something special about him and call attention to that. Like how his little dude friend loves to wrestle him or his school friends ask him for reading help.

Maybe you could set up a playdate with one of your daughters friends where she can help them with something she is good at?


Thankyou, that's seriously good advice. I'm going to try it.



cyberdad
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03 Sep 2021, 10:22 pm

So for my daughter her primary school told her (this was part of the agreement/MOU to let her attend mainstream school) so that other pupils/teachers were aware.

My daughter's response is that she doesn't define herself by the term and never uses it to describe herself to us or her friends at school.

The volumes of books we purchased on autism have been of little value. As parents we never label her anything and respond to any innapropriate behaviour on a case by case basis.