When to tell my child he is autistic?

Nancy - posted on 04/26/2012 ( 2 moms have responded )

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I have an 11 year old son who is in the 5th grade. He was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 and is very high functioning. He has been mainstreamed since kindergarten and it isn't always easy to tell that he has autism.

Since he is so high functioning, we've never felt the need to tell him about his autism. But since he will be starting middle school next year, we are wondering if it is the right time to discuss it with him. My concern is that it will be difficult for him to adapt to changing classes, the social pressures, etc... and he might suddenly find himself feeling 'different'. On the other hand, he currently has great self-esteem and I don't want to give him any reason to doubt himself. Has anybody else dealt with discussing autism with an older child? Help!

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Jodi - posted on 04/26/2012

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Oh, and when you refer to the autism try to refrain from telling him he "is" autistic. That becomes an identity thing. Instead, try to tell him he "has" something called autism.



It is kind of like the difference between telling a child they are naughty, and telling a child their behaviour is naughty. The former is going to affect the self esteem, the latter is focusing on the behaviour rather than the child's self identity,

Jodi - posted on 04/26/2012

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I don't have a child with autism, but if I were in your shoes, rather than discussing it as an issue of autism, why not just discuss your concerns and how things will be different next year. Outline to him the differences, that is letting him know in advance how things work, and give him the opening he may need to come and discuss these issues with you if he feels himself not coping with these things. At the same time, chances are he is also going to be experiencing the majority of the changes of puberty in the next 2-3 years too, so you could just converse about these things, and all the changes, and the many things that may overwhelm him in years to come.

Basically, I am just suggesting that rather than labeling it for him, just focus on the changes. Sure, refer to his autism, let him know that this is sometimes what affects his feelings and how he copes with thos, don't hide that. BUT don't make it ABOUT his autism, make it about the changes and focus on positive ways for him to deal with it and come to you with his concerns.

If it helps, my son struggled with the vast difference when he started high school, and at the exact same time, his hormones started absolutely raging, and it was just a matter of talking to him and keeping an open dialogue. These are changes most kids find overwhelming at times, not just children with autism :)

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