The conversation around autism can be a difficult one for parents. Telling your child that they have autism is an uncomfortable task. However, it is essential to enable them to get the best out of their lives and future.
As a parent, you will likely feel overwhelmed about how to tell them, worries about how they’ll react, and what comes after. Knowing the best way to break this news and provide support can make the transition smoother for everyone. In this blog, we will show you how to tell your child they have autism.
Why explaining autism to kids on the spectrum is crucial?
Explaining autism is important, especially because it helps them understand and cope with the challenges they may face. Educating kids about their condition enables them to develop a positive sense of self-awareness and can be empowering. It also helps create an environment of acceptance, allowing these children to form strong relationships rooted in understanding.
Furthermore, by having an explanation for why certain things may be difficult or seem strange, these kids can develop coping mechanisms that help them mitigate the unique difficulties in their lives caused by autism. While autism might make certain aspects of socializing and communicating more difficult, learning about how autism impacts them and others can help these children develop necessary skills for navigating their world without feeling misunderstood or isolated.
Ultimately, taking the time to explaining autism to an autistic child allows them to live happy lives with greater levels of independence and confidence.
How to Tell a child they have autism? Our 7 Must-Follow Tips
1. Get creative and not too technical
Telling a child that they have autism doesn't have to be a daunting experience. In fact, with the right approach, it can be fun! Start by introducing the child to some TV characters who have autism, like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory or Dr. Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor, and discussing what makes them unique. Or explore books about autism that talk about different abilities and how neurodiversity makes us all special in our own ways.
You can even use role play or flashcards to explain what autism is and how it makes your kiddo more special than they already are. The possibilities are endless! Just don’t throw a bunch of scientific terms to their face, this will only confuse them more.
2. Use a positive approach to the spectrum
Talking positively about autism is an important way to help kids embrace their diagnosis. Conversations that focus on the unique qualities of those with autism can help to build self-confidence and esteem. Hearing positive stories from other people with similar experiences helps children understand that life with autism can still be rewarding and full of amazing successes.
Instead of focusing on challenges or limitations as soon as you start the conversation, highlighting people's accomplishments creates a sense of pride in being able to identify with individuals who live enriching lives despite their difficulties. It also teaches children with autism to see beyond labels and recognize their own worthiness, creativity, and potential.
Finally, talking positively about autism will create a sense of belonging to a supportive community, where children know they have access to resources, tools, and support networks when they need it.
3. Expose strengths, challenges, and differences
Start by talking about all the unique qualities that make them special, and celebrate the way their brain works differently than others. You can explain how everyone learns in different ways and focus on their strengths, this will help validate your child’s experience.
Talk to them about the challenges they may face along the way in comparison to those that are neurotypical. This will help them understand what comes next, however, make sure to do so from a positive place. Try not to make them feel alarmed by their diagnosis, but hopeful that things can get better.
4. Explain treatments
Explaining autism treatments to an autistic child can be challenging, but is an important step in helping them better understand their condition. To make it easier, it is important to first set clear expectations and use language that the child can comprehend. Before beginning to explain the treatment plan, make sure the child understands why they are having the treatment and what benefit it may have.
Additionally, keep the explanation short and simple while highlighting any positive outcomes they may gain from the treatment. Reassuring them that you care about and respect their ideas throughout this process will help create a trusting environment, so they are more willing to accept any changes to their wellbeing.
5. Mind your words
Using words like “retarded” or “stupid” or “disability” is a big no-no. Telling a child they have autism those negative language can affect the way your kiddo visualizes their diagnosis and can damage their self-esteem and confidence.
In this sense, kids exposed to this type of language are more likely to think lower about themselves and are less likely to improve with treatment because words matter! So, as we said before, always encourage a positive conversation around their diagnosis and never make them feel less with your words.
6. Give them time to assimilate
Enabling kids to assimilate that they have autism is essential for their long-term well-being and acceptance of their diagnosis. It allows them time to process their diagnosis, understand it, and form an identity based on the diagnosis. Kids who don't assimilate their diagnosis often become isolated or struggle with interpersonal relationships, as they can lack self-confidence in their ability to cope with the social situations that arise due to autism.
Allowing a child the chance to learn about their differences also allows them to be mindful and understanding of other people's differences. Through this experience they cultivate compassion, acceptance, and even empathy towards those who may be different from themselves.
Ultimately, knowledge is power, and by giving kids the opportunity to comprehend how the autistic spectrum affects them specifically is key in providing support and guidance in the journey ahead.
7. Be ready for questions
Once they assimilate their diagnosis, their young minds will have many questions. Some of them may be big, while others may seem unnecessary for you. However, it’s important that you give them the space to ask as many questions as they have, so their diagnosis can be clearer to them.
Always highlight that you’re there in case they have any questions and that everything they want to know is valid!
When should you tell your kid they have autism?
There's no such thing as the “right time” to tell your kids about their diagnosis. Explaining autism to an autistic child should come as a natural conversation when you feel they are ready for it. In this sense, the time depends on you and your judgment.
Nonetheless, many experts recommend parents to tell kids about their diagnosis as soon as possible and before primary school. This is because it’s important that kids start receiving treatment as soon as possible for them to be able to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.
Our recommendation is to assess their age, awareness, and level of understatement and make a decision based on that. You can also consult with the child’s doctor to determine the best time to have the conversation.
Explaining autism to kids: Final thoughts
Now that you know how to tell your child they have autism, we have one last thing to say to you: it’s not going to be perfect. You can’t predict how your kiddo will take it, and you don’t know how they will react. However, with these 7 tips, we’re sure you’ll be able to smooth out the process for them and for you.
There’s no perfect way for telling them about their diagnosis, but one thing is clear: it’s important that you have that talk!
If you want to keep learning about more tips, tricks, and mom-to-mom advice regarding autism, don’t forget to visit our blog page!