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Learning that your child has autism is a very difficult thing to hear and process. Parents will be expected to go through the five stages of grief over and over again. In order to help make this reality easier to handle, parents must always tell their friends and family about the autism diagnosis of their child.
However, if you happen to be one of those parents that had just found out that your child has autism, you may be cringing at the idea of telling your family members and your friends. That is because you might be terrified that they will make the wrong assumptions even though there is more and more awareness about autism nowadays compared to 20 years ago. The only way the assumptions can be squashed that anyone can make about your child’s recent autism diagnosis is by educating them which is another reason to be open about it.
Besides, you will need a lot of emotional and physical support in order to prevent burnout from happening. Parenting a child on the autism spectrum can be quite stressful and going at it alone is the worst possible thing to do.
If you are concerned about how you will be able to share this information, there is no need to be. The tips on how to share an autism diagnosis with your friend and family are right in this article. The first tip is the easiest to talk about because it will be the easiest for others to grasp:
The Child’s Behaviors Must Be The Focus
Your friends and family will realize that your child’s behaviors such as the continuous lack of eye contact, the meltdowns, the stimming, the fixations, the echolalia, and so on are not typical. This is when you have the opportunity to educate them about how autism affects these behaviors.
If you are afraid as well that some of your extended family members or even friends have been judging your parenting based on what they have noticed about your child – this is also why it is important to explain to them about how autism is the reason that your child behaves the way he or she does.
Explain The Basics Of Autism
You have already been open about how autism affects the child’s behaviors. You can then discuss the overall basics of the condition as how it affects the child’s overall development and social skills.
Kids and even adults on the autism spectrum have a hard time understanding social gestures such as facial expressions and body language which is why they are unable to respond to them. They also have a hard time maintaining eye contact and have a difficult time making transitions.
This means if the child has not been to a particular place in the past, and has no idea that a change in schedule will happen, it can result in a meltdown. Explain to your friends and family that the reason that your child must have a predictable routine is because of the autism. Sudden changes will throw them and cause a lot of anxiety.
Additionally, make it clear that autism is lifelong and that they will never outgrow it. Nip it in the bud as well that autism is not caused by anything you or your partner did. It is not caused by bad parenting or vaccines, and it starts in utero. Autism happens and there is still no known cause other than it being in the genes.
Tell Them That Your Child Will Not Be Like Dr. Temple Grandin Or The Main Character Of The Good Doctor
Your friends and family may assume that your child has savant abilities and could be a genius because of how autism is frequently displayed in society. Unfortunately, many individuals with autism have intellectual disabilities which will limit them as far as how they can contribute to society. That is more commonly the case with people who have a condition that is non-verbal, however, that is not always the case.
Even for individuals who have normal IQs are oftentimes not savants, and will also need a lot of assistance throughout life. There is no one size fits all for autism.
Explain How The Autism Diagnosis Can Help Your Child Instead Of Just Creating A Label
The one thing that well-meaning people in your life may be concerned about is when the child has an autism diagnosis, that means that he or she will end up with a label. Therefore, the worry is that the child’s self-esteem may be affected. Explain to them instead that the autism diagnosis will help them receive support such as ABA, speech therapy, and OT support early on.
Early intervention is important for autistic children. That increases their odds of becoming a productive member of society and it increases their odds of becoming successful in their own way. Even for the ones that are more profoundly impacted, early intervention can help them become as independent as they realistically can. Even if that means the non-verbal kids being able to learn sign language as a way of communication.
Expect Reactions That Are Not Pleasant And Supportive
The one thing to anticipate when you are telling your family and friends about your child’s autism diagnosis is that there will be a variety of responses. Some of your friends and family will be relieved to hear there has been a diagnosis for your child as soon as you tell them because of how they have noticed that your child’s development has not been on target. Others, on the other hand, may not react so well and will be in denial that your child has autism.
Some of those family members and friends may reject it and say things such as no, not your Johnny, that would never happen to him. Unfortunately, those types of reactions will make you feel even worse about the situation. However, holding it in and not informing others will only make it worse for you. Those who reject your child’s autism diagnosis eventually will come to terms with it after they process it which can take time.
If you go into this expecting that you will not receive some responses that are not supportive and positive, at least you will feel less hurt after it happens. Whatever you do no matter how your friends and family respond to the diagnosis is to make it clear that you will need their support.
Expect Responses That Are Positive And Unrealistic
This goes back to point #3. If your relatives are making comments such as oh don’t worry, Johnny will grow out of it, or once again compare your child to someone with autism that got married, or became a business owner, or so on – remember that they are only saying these things from a good place. They mean well and want to be reassuring to you. However, you can always in a kind way tell them that you are going to hope for the best in regards to how your child turns out as a result of therapy but your child will never grow out of it since autism is a spectrum disorder.
Also, explain that comments such as that are not going to help you. Accepting the painful reality that your child has autism is the only way to move forward. It is best to hope for the best, but it is also important to plan for the worst.
Have The Relatives In Denial About The Autism Diagnosis Talk To The Doctor
If several months have passed by and your relatives are still in denial about your child’s autism diagnosis, then you will want to have them come with you talk to the doctor about it. After the doctor talks to them, they still may be in denial for a short while but it will have them thinking more about it. And they may even start doing research of their own on autism which will eventually help them come to terms with the diagnosis.
Give Your Family And Friends Resources To Help Them Understand The Condition
The best way to educate your friends and family, even the ones who are in denial, as well as the ones who are unrealistically positive, is to provide them with resources. Look for names of top-rated books written by professionals on autism as well as websites such as autismspeaks.org to help them understand autism on a much deeper level than how you were able to explain it.
Last but not least, it is crucial that you find support groups for autism parents. Not only will they help you feel less alone, but they may have good tips as well in regards to breaking the news that your child has autism to your family and friends. Any type of support that you can get from others who have been in your shoes and completely understand the challenges that come with raising a child with autism as well as handling family members is priceless!