How do I tell my child that they are autistic? How can I explain what autism means?
That’s a loaded question, and each person in this world will have an entirely unique answer. No one story will be able to be replicated to fit anyone else’s narrative.
But what will help every single person who finds themselves in this situation is learning how to begin.
The most basic and helpful advice I can give someone in this position is to learn how to frame autism.
Begin showing your child the differences in people. It’s ok to talk about both the spectacular benefits of autism as well as the challenges. Point out how autistics have unique traits that make them who they are. Explain how neurotypical people are different and how they see the world. Perhaps even start to bring up ways in which your child shows autism traits.
It’s important to encourage questions and not to hide differences. It will show every single person has their own journey. That some people have different ways of experiencing life and the world around them, and that it’s ok to be different.
When your child understands that autism isn’t a topic to shy away from or be shamed for, introducing them to the concept that they are autistic may not be as hard as you think.
Communication is key and many times, people may find that having something to identify with, especially when given in a factual and even positive light, can be incredibly satisfying. Many autistics of every age find relief after being told.
After doing the background leg of the work, letting them know in a connected way will help. Be doing something of value with them. Show them that you care. Mention the things you’ve discussed that may have been difficult for your child, and don’t forget to mention the things that are wonderful.
Then, bring it back to autism. Explain to them why you sought out a diagnosis and what has changed. Be open and honest with them. Let them lead. If they change the subject, go with it and respect their deflection. For many autistics, they may need time to reflect and process. Let them bring it back up when they are ready. It could be hours, days, or even weeks.
Don’t push it, but make sure you continue to be their best ally. Show them you love them and make a concerted effort to find connection throughout each day. It will be important for them to know that your relationship hasn’t changed.