I get long-winded. You’ve been reading my posts this month; you know this. 😉
This one, shockingly, doesn’t require me to be long-winded at all.
When should parents tell their kids they’re Autistic?
-Is the parent able to speak about it with an emphasis on the neutral and positive? (i.e., have they had time to get to understand what the diagnosis means, themselves, and processed their own emotions, and come to accept their child as they are authentically?)
-Is the parent also able to acknowledge negatives if expressed by their child and empathize with them without spiraling?
That’s it. That’s when you should tell them.
If you want some specifics, like “how” and “in what language” and other suggestions, I have to point back to Chris at ANW who I’ve been quoting from all month long. (Remember that he is autistic himself, although diagnosed as an adult, so he can really speak to this from personal experience!)
I’ve included this image as well because it’s the most common reason that I hear people saying that they don’t want to tell their child they’re autistic. It has a picture of a crowd of people all saying negative words, like “naughty, lazy, violent, disruptive, antisocial, oversensitive, weird, challenging, crazy, learning difficulties, loner”. And then it has a parent with a child, the parent saying, “I won’t seek an autism diagnosis. I don’t want my child to have a label.” The bottom of the picture says one way or another, autistic people often get labelled. At least make it a label that’s accurate, and allows access to help and support.
The picture is specific to getting a diagnosis, but not telling your child the diagnosis has the same effects. People will tell them “who they are” regardless of whether you actually tell them or not. They will internalize descriptors that society places on them. But if they can come to know themselves and understand themselves authentically instead, then they’re prepared to be able to self-advocate instead of internalizing shame and disappointment in themselves for being different.