It can feel daunting to tell a child about their autism diagnosis, not least because of all the connotations that adults put on having a ‘label’. However, it is important to remember that children do not have the experience to link associations with a diagnosis, they may just be relieved to discover that there is a reason why they struggle. Our children need to understand that they are capable, clever, functioning, contributing, important members of society and that there are reasons for why they struggle in life.
Just as actually receiving a diagnosis can open doors in terms of physical help (such as from the Bristol Autism Team), telling a child about their diagnosis can also open doors. For example, there are a great many clubs and groups for children with additional needs in and around Bristol.
Explaining to a child why they find certain environments difficult will not only help them to avoid or adapt to these situations, but may also help them find way of expressing their specific needs to others. If a child is aware of their autism, they may be more willing to take part in SEND support groups and activities knowing that they are with others like themselves and that they are not alone.
Knowledge is power
Learning that they are autistic can be a huge relief for a child who is struggling. Understanding how autism affects them, they may be able to find new ways to cope. They may stop being so hard on themselves for things they cannot control. Behaviour may change, with meltdowns, self-harming and anxiety being reduced as the child finds ways of adapting
Equally, an understanding of how autistic traits impact on their day to day life may be useful. If the child is able to understand why they experience things they way they do the world could become a less confusing, bewildering and scary place.
Autistic children often feel different to their peers. Such awareness can cause a great deal of distress, frustration, depression and sadness. Children who realise their differences are likely to benefit from knowing about their diagnosis; understanding they are autistic may help them to find their place in the world.
Armed with the knowledge of their diagnosis, as an autistic child gets older, they may be able to become a more resilient person, better able to understand other people’s behaviour and society’s rules. They may find ways to accept and cope with the confusing world around them and find their own ways of dealing with change.
They may also become motivated to find out more about autism, work out strategies for themselves, research ways to cope with specific situations, read books etc. A child or young person that knows about their autism diagnosis may be comfortable joining groups for autistic children, increasing their chances of finding like-minded individuals and finding their place in the world.
The earlier a child learns about their diagnosis and how to talk about their needs and ask for reasonable accommodations the better as it will help them in the future. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults, and will need to understand their diagnosis in order to ask for reasonable accommodations.
A stern warning
It is extremely important that your child learns about their diagnosis from you. Hearing about it from a friend or relative, or overhearing a conversation about it can be very damaging.
- When to tell your child about their autism diagnosis
- How to tell your child about their autism diagnosis