What's the right age to tell you child that they have autism?

Yvonne - posted on 06/24/2010 ( 45 moms have responded )

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My girl is only five I don't think she's ready to know I don't think she will understand.But she is getting older.I would just like to know what will be the right age and what do you say.

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Stephanie - posted on 06/24/2010

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I have never hidden it from my 5 yr old, but as yet he has no obvious awareness that he is different to other kids. When I have explained it to other kids I tell them his brain works differently to everyone elses. When I do explain it to him by using a car analogy. I'm going to say most people are fords or toyotas and he is a lamborghini. He needs more care and special fuel so his special engine (brain) can work properly. What helps for us with that analogy is that his dad is obsessed with lambos. Our boy knows they're special. I've also heard of people telling their kids most people are like PC's, ASD people are apple macs. They can talk to each other and do all the same things but there can be problems with communication sometimes.

Melissa - posted on 07/01/2010

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Hi, I told my son when he was 10 in a very casual conversation after we watched a show about a boy who had aspergers. This boy was very articulate, and at the end, when he was asked whether he wished he hadn't had aspergers, he replied that he's glad he has aspergers as it is who he is.
My son also has a list of very famous people who have aspergers. There's a beautiful book called "all cats have aspergers" that my son loves too.
Hope it helps
X

Amber - posted on 07/07/2010

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I never really sat down and told my son; he just kind of overheard it so to speak at Dr. appointments and whatnot. However, the day he told his teacher he "couldn't do that becuase he has Asperger's" I sat him down and did some explaining. I told them that it did NOT mean he couldn't do ANYTHING just that some things would be harder, but that everyone has stuff that's harder for them than other people.

Michelle - posted on 07/07/2010

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My 6-year-old son, Zane, is adopted AND has Asperger's. He was dx'd as PDD/NOS at 3 and just upgraded to Asperger's. We have been very open with him about both the adoption and the ASD and even though I know he doesn't fully understand either one, he will appreciate our openness one day. He completely understands that he is different from other children, we can see it in the way he processes social situations and has even said to me on several occasions that other children don't play like he plays. His biggest obstacle is social interaction and it hinders his ability to make friends. Children are not mean (he is in a very small Christian private school), but they ask him why he takes meds, why he "bah-bah-bah's" (his vocal stimming)... and I always tell him to just tell the child/ren that he takes medication to help him think better and he makes the noises because he can't always help it.

I think that if one is open from the beginning, you form a foundation of trust and intimacy. Hiding it or simply ignoring it will only cause more heartache and pain down the road.

It's hard for all of us to understand, and explaining it to our little ones is even harder, but using a the "car story" is a good way to do it. I also told Zane that everyone has some things that they are good at, and some that take extra work. Some children are good at math, some need help. He's no different, he just needs a little extra help getting over the rough spots.

Good luck to you all!

Anne - posted on 07/05/2010

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My son will be 6 in September and when I explain to people about his behaviour I tend to do it in front of him so he will always be aware that he is a bit different from the other children. He already told me that he is different, and that was before I started talking about Aspergers in front of him. I asked him why he is different, and in his words he said "I am cleverer than them and they talk different to me". I now don't underestimate his understanding and will always try to answer as honestly as I can any questions he may have.
Another reason why I am being open from such an early age is that one of his friends today said he was born 'a bit nasty' and I had to explain to her as clearly as I could, to a 5 year old, why my son has his anger outbursts. If his peers are noticing his quirky ways and extreme behaviours at such a young age, I think it is only fair for him to be equipped with the knowledge of his condition so that he can tell his friends why he behaves in the way that he does. Personally, I think it is best to let them know as soon as you think they are old enough to understand.
Hope this helps.

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Emma - posted on 12/20/2011

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My son is goign to be seven in Feb.. he was diagonosed with ASD when he turned 5.. i am having the same dillemma as whether to tell hiim or not.. he always wonders why he has to go to all these different doctors appointments and suffers from anxiety, behaviour and emotional problems... i wondered whether telling him would help, although i dn't know if he will even understand.. i didn't want him to use his ASD as a excuse for his behaviour!! but there is now alot of problems with his $ year old brother, he is usually very nasty to his little brother and they fight like crazy... is it worth telling his brother at such a young age that his brother is special? i just dnt know how to deal with this situation?

Thomasine - posted on 04/08/2011

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I do not know the right age but , soon she will notice that she is different and will be asking questions. If she has ask the questions she should know the answers, at her level...I saw a book that was a very cool way of learning about Aspbergers for children ...I do not know the authors name , but the book was call All Cats have Aspbergers.

Tara - posted on 04/07/2011

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Ignorance is bliss. I would wait until or even if she questions her differences. And even then, I wouldn't tell her somethings wrong or that she's different, id just say something like, her brain looks at the world different. I dont think ill ever tell my son somethings different with him. He's so happy with his life. The good thing about autism is that they don't care what other people say... their minds don't process that thats suppose to make you feel bad. In a lot of cases anyways, probably not all.

Jenny - posted on 07/09/2010

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I think that the earlier you tell her the more it won't bother her, it may help her cope.....my daughter knew at a young age..... and they need to know that certain aspects of autism are normal for her like the OCD and tics and stuff. Other children may not understand and bug her about it, but it helps for her to understand that that is normal for her.

Angela - posted on 07/09/2010

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You have a point Sam!
They really don't need to know because they are who they are and James has friends and he thinks he is normal so at age 7 why change that!

Sam - posted on 07/08/2010

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I think it depends on the severity of the disorder. My son is 6 and I don't think he would understand if I told him. He doesn't know anything different than what he is. Why do we feel we have to define our children with labels? Can't she just be your daughter without being your daughter with autism? I would wait until she asks one day why and if she is different than the other kids. Explaining it to her is just causing you stress.

Angela - posted on 07/08/2010

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My Boy is 7 and we have not told him yet though I am sure he has heard us talking...
Not sure when I will tell him or how but you have some awesome feed back here :)

Deborah - posted on 07/08/2010

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My oldest son was diagnosed with mild Aspergers in 5th grade. I told him about the diagnosis abut 6 months later. I figured being up front and honest was the best policy. One night before bed about a year after we told him, he told me, "Mom, I'm so glad I have my Aspergian traits. They are what makes me me." I've never regretted telling him for a second.

Natalie - posted on 07/08/2010

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I love the book all cats have Asperger's! Our school psychologist showed it to my husband and I in one of our IEP meetings for our son. Even though our son has PPD-NOS there are some similarities of cat behaviors that mirror his own.

Sandra - posted on 07/08/2010

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I told my son the day we found out. He already knew something wasn't right about him in comparison to his classmates and his self-esteem was at rock bottom. He had failed kindergarten and had struggled through 1st and 2nd grade. He was 8.5 yrs old when we finally got the PDD-NOS diagnosis and it was a Godsend because we finally knew what he was up against. I broke it down as his brain was programmed differently and some of our standard programs don't run as well on his system. Since we had just gotten a new computer and no longer ran a dual operating systems one I was able to relate it to his games and windows 98 v. XP. I also told him he could learn because of all the things he knew--it just needed his complete attention and effort. School is still a struggle (entering 7th grade this Fall) but except for study hall in the CMC and pull outs for math, he is in the regular classroom all day. Not knowing is always harder on these kids than knowing the truth and how to deal with it.

Samantha - posted on 07/07/2010

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I have never sat down with my autistic and aspergers kids and told them. they know they are different. they see it. My 4 year old has fetal alcohol syndrome as well and we have never hidden it from him, just like we haven;t hidden that he's adopted. Its who she is and you should be proud of that, and so should she. She is no worse then anyone else, she is unique is all. She has her own way. Love her and when you talk about her differences in from of her be loving and if she has questions answer them at her level. You don't tell a child about felines and genus and all that when they just want to know its a kitty cat.

Amanda - posted on 07/06/2010

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Yvonne, I can tell you what worked for me. I rented a movie about a boy with Autism. I picked one specific to my son's actions and characteristics. He recognized it and asked me if he had it. I told him there is a spectrum (rainbow) of names and God chose his name to have Asperger's Syndrome. His grades are good and he absorbs things like a sponge, so I explained to him, (when he was 9 yrs old), people with autism are no different than people with wheelchairs, walking cains, crutches, "fake" legs, missing fingers, football players...all have feelings, all use oxygen, all need food, the only difference is...his name. Of course he's older now and he reads about his autism and tries to cope with different stimulation.

Natalie - posted on 07/06/2010

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I agree with you Anne explaining to other children your child's condition in front of him goes a long way for him to help understand his differences from his peers. I decided to wait until my son was a little older to talk to him about his PPD-NOS because I knew earlier on that he wouldn't understand why he is different from his brother and his peers. When we have talked about his condition in the past we have mostly talked about how his mind always races and he can't hold his thoughts together. I have explained to him that his father's brain acts the same way (my husband has ADHD and is Manic Depressive Bi-polar). I told my son that his mind is like a computer it is constantly downloading information faster than his brain can process it. Using the computer analogy has made it a little easier for him to understand. I think that talking to other children about our children having autism is great. This way they know why our children have special quirks and behave differently. It also teaches other children tolerance for those differences.

Alison - posted on 07/06/2010

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My son is now 9 he dosn't know he has it he knows he's Dyslexic.. My son knows he's different from the other children in his class... He says why can't I be like rest boys and girls.. I was lead to believe that they do start noticing they are different as they get older.. Is this correct....

Sharmin - posted on 07/06/2010

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We told our daughter at age 10. She is now 16 1/2 years old. She has dealt with it very well. We decided to tell her because we were holding her back in 4th grade because of not passing the math portion on the state test. It has been the best thing for her. She understands her condition and tries very hard to work on her weaknesses.

Sarah - posted on 07/06/2010

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We told our son from almost the day he was diagnoised that he has Aspergers. There is a great book called all cats have aspergers which he really identified with so it was very easy to say - well yes you feel like that because you have aspergers. We tell him aspergers means he thinks and understands things in a different way to some other people. That his brain works a little differently to everyone elses and that's why he has trouble with some things and finds other things easy.

I felt it was important to tell him, firstly because he knoew something was up with all the dr appointment and OT etc but also because I feel it is important for him to have pride in the marvellous achievements he makes and understand why he struggles with other things. BTW - he was 5 when he was diagnoised

Naomi - posted on 07/05/2010

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My Aspergers son was 7 (now 9). I made him a book about himself in which i explained about autism, that he has it, & what it means, in simple terms (like, that his brain works in a different way, which is why he does certain things, giving examples etc). I included photos & pictures, including pictures of people who help him (us, his doctor, his teachers etc). I was scared to tell him, thought it might freak him out, but it went really well & it's so much better that he knows!

Natalie - posted on 07/05/2010

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I recently told my 8 year old son that he has PPD-NOS. He has always been aware that he is different from other children, though it has never affected him socially. Does he fully understand what PPD-NOS means? No, but over time he will. I think like anything else that affects a child's development parents should talking to their kids about their disorders or differences early and talk often.

Gail - posted on 07/05/2010

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Every parent is different when it comes to telling their child about these things, my advice is when she starts to realise she is different to other children around her is the right time to tell her this is what i did with my son James which was when he was about 7yrs old and he is 15yrs next month and he likes it that he is different to the other children so i hope your daughter feels the same way as she grows older..Good Luck!

Lana - posted on 07/04/2010

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Hi Yvonne!
Tell her when you think she is noticing things being different. Girls are more adaptive to their surroundings and may actually fake her way thru. My Daughter knew she had it after her brother was dx'd but it wasn't until high school she said something. She didn't have a boyfriend and a really good friend told her that HS boys want one thing and you don't need that grief. You'll meet someone in college or after college will find you ..
My son he and I talked about it in 3rd grade because he was doing a lot of testing. He is now 18 and he says he is still waiting for the mothr ship to takes us all home.
She let you know...these kids are sometimes a lot smarter than us!.

Julie - posted on 07/03/2010

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Hi Yvonne

I think it really depends on your gut instinct about how well you think she may understand and if you are ready to tackle it as she may have some very insightful questions that can catch you unaware if you do not have a few answers up your sleeve and that you can answer them without wanting to cry!

Our daughter was diagnosed with Aspergers aged 6 last year and she has found having a reason for her "difficulties" as she calls them really helpful and has really improved her self esteem which was at rock bottom. We try to explain to her that sometimes the way she feels about things are because her Aspergers can make her think this way. For example she always thinks if she can't do something that we are stopping her on purpose to upset her when we explain that we are not doing it on purpose but some times Aspergers syndrome makes you feel like it is done on purpose she is more able to understand it. It has been a useful tool for her to understand that the often extreme anger, fear, frustration has a cause and that she is not a bad person. She adores cats so the book All Cats have Aspergers was a god send and has been a really lovely way to introduce friends, family school friends and parents to the concept of Apergers in an easy non patronising way. Another book Can I tell you about Aspergers Syndrome is also very good as when she gets older she may say " I feel like that!

Yes Aspergers can have some very positive aspects if your child is particularly talented in some areas that they can see. Not all children can see themselves as talented even if they are extraordinarily gifted so a constant supply of certificates from school, swimming, dance, gymnastics have been amazingly helpful in SHOWING her that she is amazing rather than us just telling her as you know telling doesn't help. So get as many visual things that show her how wonderful she is and have them out as much as possible.
Now she often asks if other people have Aspergers such as her brother (who doesn't) and we explain that he has exzema and I have asthma and Nanny wears glasses e.t.c and at this age she is happy with this as it makes it a regular thing amongst many that a person can have. A year after she is very comfortable with it. Good luck. You will know when it is right for you and her and be confident in your decision x

[deleted account]

My son is 8 and we haven't told him.

We have several things around about autism and we obviously know a few people with autism, and he's heard me talk on the phone about autism (but not him)

We had an instance where another older boy (who has autism) was being mean to my 6yr old - to the point where my 6yr old wasn't coping in class.
We spoke in the car, and I told him the boy has autism - which then opened the debate about what it was. I told them everyone is different; some have blonde hair, some black etc, some are good at tennis, some at maths. We used to foster a girl with cerebal palsy, so we talked about that too. I told them some people think different from others which affects their behaviour - that is what they call autism. I then went on to talk to my son how he and his dad think alike on a lot of things (His dad has Aspergers we discovered last year) and how my youngest son and I think alike.
We then spoke about how it's important to accept other people, even if they think or behave differently to you. We then moved it onto positive and negative discrimination and how they can not like the girl with orange hair for example, and then how they feel when people are mean to them.
It ended up with re-iterating how we need to be accepting of others whether there is a disability we can see (such as CP) or something like their friend who has autism that we can't see. We also said some people have a 'label' and others don't. Either way it how WE behave that counts, and we continue to be loving to one another.

Nancy - posted on 07/03/2010

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I start explaining to my so, when he was in 8 or 9. I know he did understand the exact meaning but he knew he was different in some way. When he start junior high, His older sister class had started "the Difablity Awareness Club" (this club was to help othr students understands that other kids are slower to learn or do othr things but they work just as hard as they do. The school also thought by doing this the bullying and tauting would easy up It Has. ) Chris's sister took him under her wing. He is now 13 and understands that "yes " he is special, yes, he has Aspbergers, he normal on the outside, just some different wiring on the inside. He actully likes it and reminds me that he knows
Postive simple wording, lots of encouragement from everyone you know and lots of love and hugs along th way,and some day when you least expec it they come up to you and tell you in there own way that they relized that they got what you've been trying to explain "Yes you are different, You have an ABLITY that no one else has, thats what makes you SPECIAL"

Nicole - posted on 07/02/2010

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My daughter is almost 6 and I started introducing the subject to her slowly, this past school year. She started mainstreaming from a self-contained class into a "taller" (larger) class and wanted to know why. She also knew about all the fun events we attended through a local Autism association and wanted to know why some of her friends go and others do not.
I'm not sure how much she actually understands but I tell her that kids with Autism are special. I try to sound positive. I tell her that Austism gives her special "talents" like being able to remember things really well. She thinks she has "talents" just like the disney fairies. I think she also believes she is in some kinf of special club. However, she also knows that sometimes her Autsim makes things difficult, like when she has trouble with "loud sounds" and can't calm her body down. She knows she goes to OT and PT to make her "body strong."
Some of her friends with Autism know about theri condition and some do not. I always try to be honest with my daughter without giving too much information, which might overwhelm her. She's smart and should know it's nothing to be ashamed of. You'll know when it's time to talk about it. I hope this helps.

Laura - posted on 07/01/2010

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While it depends upon your child and you know them best, I think that it helps them understand why they are different. I got my child the book All Cats Have Autism or was it Aspbergers. Anyway it helps the child to understand why they are different and keep it in a positive light. My son really enjoyed the book and helped him through this revelation. When he gets frustrated and we explain it is because of his autism he is able to decide if he should try to adapt or realize that is the way life is.

Alyson - posted on 07/01/2010

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My son has aspergers and is now 17. I told him when he was 9 as at the time we were having major problems at school with bullying and he wanted an explanation. I used a workbook called I Am Special by Peter Vermeulen. It was great, we worked through it together and it really helped.

Connie - posted on 07/01/2010

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I believe that it is like telling your kid that they are adopted. My son has autism and we speak openly about it in front of him - he doesn't understand. I remember my parents talking about me being adopted - I was about three and I didn't think it was a big deal and to this day it isn't. Is there a good time to talk to kid about anything serious like death, birth, sex...there is no right time to make a big deal about their difference - there is a right time to accept that it is their normal and the normal of your family and it is nothing shameful or hideous that needs to be hidden. It is a fact of this life and if it is spoken of freely without any judgemtn then their is nothing to worry about. Our son at some point will realize that he different to society but in our family desipite his difference he is our family and he is Mason. Cheers all...

Annmarie - posted on 07/01/2010

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My son was diagnosed at age 4. He is now 19. I will tell you that I've never hidden the word autism from him, however, you need to understand that our children have a comprehension problem. It is hard enough for us to explain and understand their disorder let alone explain it to them. I would tell my son that he just needs to have things explained to him differently in order to help him. It has only been in these last couple of years that he is able to fully understand his condition. I will also tell you that he has been motivated even more, now that he understands himself. His class has 300 students and he is ranked 75. Keep motivating your little ones and believe in them. They will surprise you!

Diantha - posted on 07/01/2010

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MY SON HAS AUTISM HIS 11YR OLD AND I TOLD HIM VERY EARLY ? I WANT HIM 2 KNOW BEFORE SOMEONE CALLS HIM A NAME CAUSE HIS DIFFERENT? KIDS AN ADULTS CAN BE RUDE AN SAY THINGS CAUSE THEY DONT UNDERSTAND? THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF LEVELS WHEN U HAVE AUTISM?HE UNDERSTANDS BUT DOESNT SPEAK?? AS A PARENT I WANT MY CHILD TO KNOW BY ME, NOT SOMEONE WHO DOESNT UNDERSTAND AND WHO WIL HURT HIS FEELINGS .

Shakira - posted on 07/01/2010

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Gee. Until I saw this post, I had never thought of this question. My son just turned 9 a week ago and he has Asperger's. It never occurred to me that one day I would have to discuss this with him. Thank you all for the good advice - and good luck to all!

Jackie - posted on 06/30/2010

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Just remember that if you do not tell your child, someone else will. You need to make it a casual conversation. probably situated around an event or the child asking why they are different, because they will ask this. Make sure you use non clinical terms to tell the child. But don't forget to emphasize the positives about the autism. My son has severe ADHD with aspergers. He has known from about the age of 5/6 that he is different. We have tried to explain to him that these conditions make him able to read a book and remember 95% of it. We explain that other kids get tired and can not play as much, but he can play all the time without getting tired. Find the positive side of these challenges. There are many! Emphasize these and assure the child that you would not want them to be any other way, that they are perfect in your eyes, even when they have challenging behavior. Good Luck!

Jane - posted on 06/30/2010

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Hi Yvonne,
I decided that always being upfront and honest is the best way. Ok, little story to make my point. I was adopted and didn't know it until a snot in second grade told me my parents weren't my own to say the least it affected me in a negative way for many years after. When my son was diagnosed with Autism I felt that it was important that he knew he was special and I always pointed out to him the gifts that God gave him and the positive gifts that Autism gave him (He's an amazing artist, gets wonderful grades, is polite, kind to others, loves nature and can name various birds at will) My son is now 15 and is fully aware he is Autistic. He for years didn't care to know any details but last year he decided it was time and began reading everything he could find on the internet. Now he is a boy and you have a girl and girls mature faster than boys and you may have issues earlier so I would stay on top of that. Girls are great until about 3rd grade and then they start noticing things and differences. Be honest and support all her wants and needs. She will do weird things act out at times, the best advise is to explain everything, before hand if possible. Explaining events and what will possibly happen will help you to avoid melt downs and freek outs. When dealing with teachers, you have to firm that VERBAL instructions and daily routines are important to your daughters success as well as other children are imperative (adding the other children will take some of the focus off your child). Be your child's expert and don't let the teachers tell you differently, make them feel important but you are the boss. Educate yourself on everything concerning your daughter. You have a school age daughter be there and always pre-predict what might happen and defuse it before it happens. I hope this has helped, contact me if you would like.
Live, Love, Laugh, Jane

Annabel - posted on 06/28/2010

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we never discussed it with our daughter, yet at the age of 10 she came home and told me she had worked out why she struggled so much in social situations and she thought she had Aspergers Syndrome. good old google! we then discussed the fact that she was actually diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 3. Living in the UK, she attends normal school. She has also stood up in front of her year group and told them what it is to live her life and how the gov't should do more to help people with autism. Following on from this, she also told me she thinks DH has the same as her!

[deleted account]

I'm glad you've gotten a lot of feedback on this! Metaphors can be powerful learning tools, but that's also an area of language many people with ASDs have trouble with. That's why I chose labelling. It's a concrete jumping off point. The one thing I have noticed with my older, less quirky kids is that they still take things quite literally. I would worry that if I described autism to my child with autism in a way that I would describe it to other children or adults, the meaning would get lost in the message. Every child is different and that's just how I perceive the situation based on our family's experiences. :)

[deleted account]

I haven't even thought about it. My son is only 4 though. At some point he'll probably ask after hearing the word "Autism" and I'll tell him people's brains think in lots of different ways. When people use information in one way, they are called Neurotypical. When they use it a different way, people say the have Autism.

I think how you approach the issue depends a lot on how you view the disorder and what you think the source and outcome are. It also would have to be appropriate to the child's level of understanding as you see it.

[deleted account]

It depends on his Autism level. I told my son since his 5 years, but @ his 10 he begun to understand that is a condition like de Down syndrome or others. Is a long process but isn't impossible. My son is 11 years right now...

Yvonne - posted on 06/25/2010

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Thank you that is very help full to tell her in away that doesn't make her feel less that a person.

Tara - posted on 06/24/2010

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I have a seven year old son that was diagnosed with autism and I tell him he has autism. I know he doesn't understand but I want him to know.

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