Print, Share, or View Spanish version of this article
Parents may wonder about when and whether to tell their child about his autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Following are some commonly asked questions about discussing diagnosis of an ASD with a child:
Parents may worry that finding out about an ASD diagnosis will be hard on their son or daughter. Some children can initially find the news upsetting, especially if they are very sensitive to any suggestion that they are different from their peers. Many individuals with ASDs, however, have shared that learning they were on the autism spectrum suddenly made clear why so many things had been difficult or why they had been treated differently. With increased awareness of ASDs, diagnosis also may provide a reason for their behavior that they think other people might understand. For some, diagnosis can take away the notion that past problems had all been the result of some personal failing; replacing this with the notion of a legitimate condition helps explain their challenges.
While it is important to tell an individual with an ASD about his diagnosis, there is no exact, “correct” age or time to tell a child. A child's personality, abilities, and social awareness are all factors to consider in determining when he is ready for information about his diagnosis. For example, a parent may decide to talk about ASDs when a child begins asking questions such as, “Why am I different?”
Before you begin, assess what your child already knows and how well she will be able to take in or process a discussion about ASDs.
Deliver the news at the right level. Prepare to explain ASDs in terms your child can grasp. Too vague an explanation may not satisfy an inquisitive teenager, while too technical an explanation may confuse or frighten a child of any age. If circumstances lead to a very early first discussion about your child's differences, you may choose not to use the actual ASD label but discuss how some children learn differently or need help with certain things at school; the actual label can be given after waiting until your child's understanding grows. For older children or teens, using the term ASD can be important. As they get older, they may read school documents or reports listing the diagnosis, or others may use the term assuming they already know. It is better if they are told their diagnosis by someone they trust and have the opportunity to have their questions answered.
Be positive. When sharing news of a diagnosis with your child, you will want to keep things very positive. It's also a good idea to choose a time when you and your child are feeling good and when you won't be interrupted or distracted.
Tailor your explanation of ASDs to your child's own situation. Start with discussing your child's positive attributes, then address areas that are challenging for your child. It is important to tell your child that you love all the “good stuff” about her and you wouldn't ever want her to change. Undoubtedly, however, your child has been struggling in some areas because of the ASD. It's OK to acknowledge these difficulties while emphasizing that it is not her fault that some things are tough.
Describe ASDs in terms of everyone being unique or different. It may be helpful to illustrate how all children learn differently by giving examples of children she knows who excel in certain areas but might need help in others. One example might be an excellent athlete who cannot sing a tune.
Let your child know there are a lot of other people with ASDs. Your child is definitely not alone, and it is important to let her know this. Your child may be interested and benefit from meeting others with ASDs. Your child's pediatrician or school may be able to help you find support or social groups where your child can meet others with ASDs.
Raise your child's awareness. Even before you discuss your child's diagnosis with her, it may be helpful to read books or watch shows together in which characters have ASDs or other disabilities. In this way, awareness of individual differences is presented gradually and as part of everyday life.
Stress that you love her just the way she is. Sharing information about ASDs in a positive, matter- of-fact, and age-appropriate way helps set the stage for a child's ability to understand, accept, and adapt to the reality of an ASD diagnosis. Keep in mind that the whole concept of “having an ASD” is a lot to take in. It is going to be a process that takes some time, with new questions asked and deeper understanding gained as your child matures.
American Academy of Pediatrics HealthyChildren.org: www.HealthyChildren.org
Foden T, Anderson C. ASD diagnosis: what do we tell the kids? http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/articles/telling_a_child_about his asd. Accessed April 5, 2012
National Autistic Society. Diagnosis: telling a child about their diagnosis. http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/all-about-diagnosis/diagnosis-the-process-for-children/after-diagnosis/diagnosis-telling-a-child-about-their-diagnosis.aspx. Accessed April 5, 2012
Family handout from Autism: Caring for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Resource Toolkit for Clinicians, 2nd Edition, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Children With Disabilities Autism Subcommittee (ASC).
The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.
If you think that you are having a medical emergency,
call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!
And when in doubt, call your doctor NOW
or go to the closest emergency department.
By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither RemedyConnect nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any express or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.
RemedyConnect, Inc. has created this privacy statement in order to demonstrate our firm commitment to your privacy. The following discloses our information gathering and dissemination practices for this website: http://www.remedyconnect.com.
Acquisition of Information through PMD
We do not acquire any more information about website visitors than is required by law or is otherwise necessary to provide a high level of service efficiently and securely. Our site's registration form requires users to give us contact information (e.g., their name and e-mail address) and demographic information (e.g., children's birth months, but not birth dates). We use customer contact information from the registration form to (1) send the user pertinent medical and parenting information and (2) allow your local health provider lists of who is registering on that provider's site as a parent/guardian, staff member, doctor, or visitor. Users may opt-out of receiving future mailings; see the choice/opt-out section below.
We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with our server and to administer our Website. Your IP address is used to help identify you and to gather broad demographic information.
Demographic and profile data is also collected at our site. We may use this data to tailor the visitor's experience at our site, showing them content that we think they might be interested in, and displaying the content according to their preferences.
Our site may use order forms to allow users to request information, products, and services.
Your Doctor's Right to Privacy
We will respect your doctor's right to privacy. A doctor typically does not give his/her e-mail address to the parents/guardians of patients. We will not provide the e-mail addresses of doctor(s) in the local practice to users of their site without the doctor(s)' permission. Their site is restricted to use by whomever they wish, and they may deny access to their site to one or more prior users. In unusual cases, doctors may change their private site's access code and arrange for us to e-mail the new access code to approved users.
This site contains links to other sites. RemedyConnect.com is not responsible for the privacy practices or the content of such Websites. See Disclaimers.
Disclosure to Third Parties
We will provide individually-identifiable information about website users to third parties only if we are compelled to do so by order of a duly-empowered governmental authority, we have the express permission of the visitor, or it is necessary to process transactions and provide you services from our affiliates: Live Agent Answering Service, Digital Answering Service, Medical Answering Service and Pediatric Answering Service.
Privacy and Our Business Partners
This site may make chat rooms, forums, message boards, and/or news groups available to its users. Please remember that any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information.
This site has security measures in place to protect the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. For further information regarding our security, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any concerns regarding the security of information, please do not provide any information to RemedyConnect, Inc. until you are comfortable with our security measures.
You may correct or update your User Registration information at any time, by visiting the User Registration section and providing your personal password that you set at registration. If need be, please email us at email@example.com.
Our site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving e-mail communications from our partners or us, except communications approved by your doctor's practice office. To so opt-out, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be removed as a user, please email us at the same address. If need be, you may mail requests to us at RemedyConnect, Inc., 9200 E. Mineral Avenue, Suite 100, Centennial, CO 80112. Our telephone number is 303-793-0703.
Contacting the Website
If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, or your dealings with this Website, you can contact us by email at email@example.com or by mail at our address above.