Discussing the Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder With Your Child—Autism Toolkit

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Should I tell my child about her autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis?

As your child gets older, she may read reports or hear the word autism in reference to her. Some children are aware of their diagnosis, but some are not aware, and the parents may worry that their children will become upset when they find out they have autism.

This is a valid concern, and it is better if your child is told about his diagnosis by you in a safe and supportive environment rather than on paper or through conversations with others.

A conversation with you about your child's diagnosis will provide an opportunity for your child to ask questions and share her feelings and concerns. It will also give you an opportunity to provide support or decide what types of supports are needed to help your child process the diagnosis.

Many individuals with ASD have said that it was helpful to learn they were on the autism spectrum. The diagnosis explained why some things had been difficult or why they may have been treated differently by others. It also gave them a way to explain their behavior to other people in a way that they would understand. For some, the diagnosis helped them not feel as if their past problems resulted from some personal failings. Instead, some of their difficulties could be explained by a medical condition.

When should I tell my child about his ASD diagnosis?

While it is important to tell someone with ASD about their diagnosis, there is no "correct" age or time to tell him. A child's personality, abilities, and social awareness are all things to think about when deciding when he is ready for information about his diagnosis. For example, a parent may decide to talk about ASD when a verbal child begins asking questions like "Why won't some children play with me?" or "Why do I leave class to work with a teacher and my friends don't have a special teacher?" or a nonverbal child shows signs of recognizing differences among his peers.

How can I best explain to my child that she has ASD?