How Do I Tell My Child They’re Autistic?

Two questions I see often in facebook groups: “Should I tell my child they’re autistic?” and “How do I tell my child they’re autistic?”

Should I tell my child they’re autistic?

Our kids know something is different about them from other kids without us having to tell them. Social difficulties aside, it’s still pretty obvious when you’re being excluded, or all the other kids are doing something and you’re not.  Unless we tell them we know it, too, and talk about it, there is a very real chance that knowing they are different will be translated as something wrong about them. This has happened to many unidentified autistics who are adults now and have shared their story. Isn’t it better to talk to them about it now so you can be on the same page of understanding?

At what age should I tell my child they’re autistic?

My personal answer is “as soon as you know, they should know.” For us that happened when Builder Boy was almost 10 and Early Bird was almost 8. We’d already been talking about autism and what it means because Lady Bug was officially identified/diagnosed before the boys were. With Lady Bug it’s a bit more complicated. Right now, as far as we are able to discern, her receptive understanding isn’t where it needs to be that she would understand it. Also, she’s only 4 years old. But she’s going to grow up in a house that eats, sleeps, and breaths the spectrum. It will be her normal. When she does eventually get to the point to understand it, there won’t be anything to explain because it’s how she’ll grow up with. The only thing that will need explaining are the neurotypicals she encounters.

How do I tell my child they’re autistic?

When we finally got home from the all day assessment and results meeting, we sat Builder Boy down and asked him if he knew why we had spent the day learning how his brain works. We’re Christians so we told him that there are 7.5 billion people in the world and most of their brains all work the same way. God decided all that sameness was boring, and made some special people who’s brains worked differently. Builder Boy cheered when he was told he was one of those special people. We also talked about how being autistic is like being a Super Hero. They have special powers, like Builder Boy’s amazing visual spacial brain and Early Bird’s Super Senses. But like all super heroes they also have secret weaknesses, like Early Bird’s SPD leading to horribly low pain tolerance. I framed it so positively, apparently, that Early Bird came to me during a playdate asking me what his best friend’s super power was. He was disappointed for his friend when I told him that his best friend isn’t autistic.



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