After a child is diagnosed with autism, parents face many decisions. One of the most difficult questions is how to tell the child about their diagnosis. There is no easy answer, as each child is unique and will respond in their own way. However, there are a few general considerations that can help parents make this decision. First, it is important to remember that autism is not a condition that needs to be cured. It is simply a different way of experiencing the world. As such, there is no shame or stigma attached to the diagnosis. Second, teenagers with autism are often very capable of understanding and accepting their diagnosis. In fact, many teenagers say that it was a relief to finally have a label for the things they had always felt differently about. Finally, parents should think about how much information they want to share with their autistic child and when they feel the child is ready to hear it. Ultimately, the decision of how to tell a child about their autism diagnosis is a personal one that should be made after careful consideration.
After a diagnosis of autism, it is important to be straight-forward with your child. Explain to them what autism is and how it affects them specifically. Even if they are very young, they need to know that there is a name for the way they think and feel. It is also important to share their strengths and weaknesses with them. Autism is a spectrum disorder, so no two people are affected in exactly the same way. However, identifying their specific strengths and weaknesses can help your child understand how autism affects them and how to manage their symptoms. Finally, it is important to explain that autism is a pattern of traits that many other people also have. This will help your child feel less alone and more connected to the autistic community.
A neurodivergent individual’s brain processes information differently than a neurotypical brain. This means that an autistic child or teen learns in different ways and has unique strengths and sensitivities. It’s important for your child to understand their neurodiversity, so that they can learn in a way that works best for them and make accommodations for their sensitivities. Sharing parts of your child’s evaluation is a great way to help them understand their neurodiversity and learn about their unique strengths and attributes. With this knowledge, they can begin to build a foundation for a lifetime of learning and self-care.
As a parent, you want your child to learn and grow, to reach their full potential. But it can be difficult to know how to best support your child, especially if they learn differently than their peers. By understanding your child’s unique attributes and sensitivities, you can help them learn in a way that works best for them. And that knowledge can be empowering for both you and your child. For very young children, the most important thing is to provide a safe and loving environment. Accepting the accommodations they need to feel safe, providing support, and
acknowledging their differences will help support a child’s self-esteem and provide them with a firm foundation. As they get older, children can play a greater part in their structure and needs. Teenagers need even more independence, but they also still need support and boundary setting. No matter what stage your child is at, the best thing you can do is be present and attentive. Listening to your children and really hearing what they have to say is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. It will help you understand their needs and how best to meet them.
As a parent, it can be difficult to watch your child struggling with their autism diagnosis. Some children may refuse to discuss a diagnosis or show little interest in the topic. You may want to do everything you can to help them, but it is important to remember that your child is the expert on their own experience. While you can provide access to supports and resources, ultimately it is up to your child to decide whether or not they want to engage with them. This is especially true for teenagers, who may be sensitive about their diagnosis and reluctant to discuss it with others. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is provide love and support, and let your child know that you are there for them whenever they are ready.
Just as every individual is different, every child will respond differently to a diagnosis of autism. Some children may be very interested in learning more about their condition, while others may prefer not to think about it too much. It is important to respect your child’s wishes and carefully consider their needs before pushing them to talk about their autism diagnosis. There are many books and groups available for children and families affected by autism, so there are plenty of opportunities to seek out information and support if and when your child is ready.
It is important for parents to share information about autism with their children in a way that is age-appropriate and helps the autistic child understand themselves. This not only allows the child to access any accommodations they may need, but also significantly improves their self-esteem and ability to accept themself.
Dr. Jessica Myszak has had over 10 years of experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. She offers both in-person and telehealth evaluations. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, she is able to work with families who reside in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with her, you can visit her website here or email her here to get the process started.