This is a very personal decision and you will know best as to how your child will react to a diagnosis. Parents are often concerned about labelling their children. if your child hasn’t noticed differences in relation to peers or issues with social or cognitive skills then it probably isn’t necessary. You may choose to not use the phrase ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)’ initially but talk about its traits instead.
If your child has become aware of problems with social skills, communication or mobility issues, it may be worth researching if disclosure would be of benefit. The feedback we have received from many of our members is that having a discussion with their child regarding ASD has greatly helped their child to understand why they behave in a certain way or why they may seem different to other children.
Autism NT staff, your child’s pediatrician or psychologist can assist you in developing a plan to introduce the concept to your child. Autism NT has many books and resources that can help explain the diagnosis and highlight potential challenges and advantages of having ASD. If you choose to disclose the diagnosis to your child, it’s important that you use positive language to reduce any anxiety.
Suggested steps to disclose a diagnosis to a child
- Plan how you will approach the discussion. The conversation can be delivered over a few different sessions.
- Assess what your child already knows – e.g. have they noticed any strengths or areas that have been challenging.
- Pitch your discussion at an age appropriate manner and at a level that your child can process.
- Start a conversation regarding that everybody is different – i.e. hair colour, interests, strengths & weaknesses.
- Some people think in different ways. We use the analogy that some people use different operating systems like computers (apple vs windows)
- Everybody has skills and aspects that they can improve on
- Explain the traits of ASD
- Talk about the positive aspects of ASD – knowing a lot about their special interests, the ability to look at things in different ways etc.
- Explain that ASD is not a disease, something to be ashamed of or makes them defective in any way.
- Make all examples concrete so the child can directly relate to the topic. Persons with ASD may struggle with abstract ideas.
- Provide examples of persons with ASD that have high achievements in their chosen fields (see the famous people section for further information)
Don’t expect your child to grasp the diagnosis/information all at once. You may need to chunk the information down into separate sessions building on the information in incremental steps.
The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) shares ASD research and collaborations.
Amaze has a resource brochure with suggestions for sharing the diagnosis. This brochure includes a list of strength and weaknesses of ASD.
Minds and hearts Clinic, Brisbane – a list of resources to explain ASD
Professor Tony Attwood explaining an Asperger diagnosis to parents:
Asperger Experts – Welcome to Asperger Experts! Created by Danny Raede & Hayden Mears, both diagnosed with Asperger’s themselves, Asperger Experts is designed to show you how to best assist people with Asperger’s to achieve their highest potential in life.
Autism NT resource library
The Autism NT resource library has a number of books, DVD’s and tools that can assist you and your family to understand a diagnosis of ASD. A great work book to gradually introduce the concept of ASD to your child and family is:
- Aspergers, what does it mean to me? Catherine Faherty.