Supporting Autistic Kids in Self-Discovery

Noah & Brenda
Blog Post

“How will I know when it’s time to tell my child about their diagnosis?”

“What should I say if my child asks me a question about autism?”

“Won’t it just hurt their self-esteem to know a diagnosis? How does having a label help?”

“What’s the best way to tell my child about their diagnosis? What shouldn’t I do?”

Parents call AANE with these and similar questions everyday. They want to help their child understand themselves and understand how their diagnosis may affect them. I posed the question of why parents should tell their child about an Asperger’s/autism diagnosis to my autistic son Noah back in 2014 when he was in high school. Although he might change some language 8 years later, he stands behind his message: “Tell your kids about their diagnosis; they have a right to know.”

And here are some additional thoughts about disclosure:.

  • To clarify a point in the video, although Noah talks about how things aren’t always “his fault,” he later explained that he didn’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 handwriting or socializing with new people). Understanding one’s autism is not creating an excuse, but it is essential in order to explain and self-advocate.
  • Before parents disclose to their children, it helps to be comfortable and understand their child’s diagnosis and traits.
  • When talking to your child, it can help to share that everyone has a mixture of strengths and challenges. Your child isn’t the only one who struggles and their struggles don’t negate their strengths.
  • Disclosure talks are similar to sex education talks: short, developmentally appropriate, and clear. You can ask your child if they have any questions and leave the door open for future conversations.
  • There is no single way to “disclose.” If the first conversation doesn’t go well, you will have another opportunity to try again.