How Do I Tell My Autistic Child About Autism?

a watercolor of rainbow paint with an infinity symbol how to tell an autistic child with autism on the spectrum about being autistic having autism

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.

Start there.

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.

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11 Responses

  1. I have the opposite problem. How do I tell my NT daughter about my autism? Her mother tells her all sorts of stuff, but I want to be able to correct the record.

    1. A lot depends on how old your daughter is but put simply just tell her the truth. Let her know there are things you find difficult (just as there are things she finds difficult) but with ASC come a lot of strengths and positives too. You will find some things difficult most NT people find easy but there are things you find easier than NT people do. One thing she can rely on is that you will always be honest – because anything else is just too hard work with an ND brain. Kids aren’t daft. They eventually realise when what’s said doesn’t match what’s being seen and they know who’s been straight with them.

  2. These problems are explained in my book: Autistic Spectrum Disorder A New Outlook, available on Amazon in print and Kindle. At this point it was read by a 10 year old Autistic individual and they have benefited from it. It is an easy read and well put together. The goal was for individuals with Autism, parents, teachers and care givers to understand Autism and work together

    Paul A Bensur Jr PhD

  3. I truly learned about living with Autism in 6th grade, when I was at a family friend’s house. My parents explained to me about living with Autism through Dr.Temple Grandin’s HBO documentary, since we were watching the movie at my family friend’s house. After the movie, my parents explained to me how I’m much like Temple. This was how I learned about living with Autism.

    1. I am autistic person and I saw the comment you wrote.I ‘ m glad you can do it , but I want to tell you something more.I saw that you have a blue purple puzzle as your profile picture. The puzzle it has to do with organization Autism Speaks who think that Autism is something bad , a tragedy , and try to find a cure for it , so that autistic people become neurotypical. They believed that autistic are not complete as they are but that they are defective. Some years ago they made a video called I am Autism and it says terrible things that do not apply to him . Also the puzzle is their logo and it symbolizes that only boys can be autistic , because blue considered a boyish color.
      I keep reading from many other people the worst for both organisation and puzzles like this.
      Even though you have learned to live with it as you say , it is also ok if sometimes you hate it and think you would like a cure , but we should not support them because they are doing a lot of harm to the autistic community.

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