I am surprised by the number of parents who ask me if it is wise to tell their children that they have autism or should they wait until the child is older, like in high school to tell them. I think one of the main reasons this question even comes up is because of a parent’s concern that the child will feel more out-casted bearing the label of autism. We must be careful here, as in most cases, this is merely a transfer of emotion from parent to child. By that I mean, when a parent finds out their child has autism, they may be shocked or even devastated by the news and loose a lot of the hopes and dreams they had for the child. They worry the child will not fit in with regular children and will no doubt need special education classes, segregating them even further from a normal society. The concerns the parents have are all legitimate but that’s the point, they are parental concerns not child concerns.
Like it or not, autism is a way of life. It requires a tedious balance of environment, diet, education and self-control. Autism affects everyone living under the same roof, therefore this way of life is not limited to the child who has autism but the whole family. Without the balance, either the child with ASD will suffer, or the neuro-typicals in the house will as a result.
In order to put any balance in one’s life, one must come to know where the center of gravity is. That of course, is one’s “self”. Therefore, knowledge about oneself becomes a solid foundation for both the parent and the child to build on.
For example, we don’t want our ASD children getting too excited or it could spin them into a meltdown. So, we teach them how to slow down using breathing techniques. With the knowledge of having autism and knowing this is a technique used by all people who have autism, we have given logical and purposeful information to the child who would then have a place to process this information and give it reason.
A lot of parents think because the child does not respond to information the same way a neuro-typical child might, they would not understand they have autism. To implement such thoughts would be disabling the child from learning about themselves and take away any reasoning the child could put to their own circumstance. Remember, rule number one, always assume intelligence.
So the answer to the question is yes, you should keep your child informed on their condition. Autism should be a word they grow up with. Knowledge is power and nothing good can come from hiding this information from them. By doing so you give them reason for suspecting your trust, and a type of personal shame develops in the child. Instead, bond with your child and take the journey together. With understanding, autism can bring you closer to your child than you may have thought possible instead of being the wall between you.
~ The Autism Whisperer.