Explaining a diagnosis of autism is often stressful for parents. We recently polled our readers for their answer to the following question: What tips do you have for explaining a child’s autism diagnosis to family and friends? Here are your Top 10 Tips of the week:
1. Be honest about the diagnosis but keep it simple, allowing others some time to take in and process the information.
2. Be prepared for reactions which can be wide-ranging. For non-supportive family and friends, it’s best not to belabor the discussion; instead give them time to gain a better understanding on their own if possible.
3. Encourage a “hands-on” approach, allowing close friends and family to observe an ABA or other therapy session, or simply accompany you on errands such as going to the grocery store. Many people can gain perspective through direct observation.
4. Maintain a positive attitude, making sure others understand your child’s uniqueness and potential.
5. Don’t generalize an autism diagnosis as it’s not a one-size-fits-all disorder. After supplying basic information, family and friends need to understand your child’s specific challenges.
6. Make a list in advance of the main points about your child you want others to understand.
7. Provide information cards to convey significant signs and behaviors associated with autism. A popular version of these are available on the TACA website: http://www.tacanow.org/store/Autism-Cards/
8. Provide print resources. There are some great books available on this topic including “10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew” by Ellen Notbohm, available on Amazon.com.
9. Utilize the internet by directing family and friends to online resources such as The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding http://graycenter.wordpress.com/category/social-understanding/
10. Share relevant theories on causation if applicable. Many parents believe that vaccine injury or toxic environmental exposures triggered their child’s autism; only through sharing these beliefs can greater awareness of potential causes be fully explored and understood.