How to talk to your family about your kid's ASD diagnosis

November 17, 2020

Hearing the news that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can come with many unexpected challenges, but one challenge that isn’t often discussed is how you share with others that your child has been diagnosed with ASD. 

Allison Siegel and Sasha Yazdgerdi

AnswersNow Brand Manager and BCBA

Hearing the news that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can come with many unexpected challenges, but one challenge that isn’t often discussed is how you share with others that your child has been diagnosed with ASD. 

If you have family and friends who don’t often see your child, but will on special occasions like holidays, they may not know the best way to interact with your child which can put everyone, including your child, in uncomfortable or stressful situations. Preparing everyone for the interaction can help to keep the visits enjoyable for all. 

First, think about your child. Starting them in treatment as soon as possible can help your child to address some of the behaviors that they struggle with which could help make them more confident and comfortable in unusual situations like a holiday party. You can also use a social story to help your child understand what the day will be like. Setting expectations can help your child process what the day will look like before the event itself. Check out this FREE Thanksgiving social story if you’re in search of one. 

Second, take time to process the diagnosis yourself. Try to remember that although a diagnosis may be difficult, you now have a tool to assist you in finding the correct supports for your child. Without a diagnosis, families might feel they are floundering, unsure which therapies and doctors are considered best practice. With a diagnosis, you now have a name to all of the questions. And while this doesn’t hold all the answers, it’s a great starting point. Understanding a diagnosis and having an idea of your path forward can make the adventure of raising a child with ASD less daunting. And being able to share with family and friends how they can possibly help along the way will give them actionable ways to support you, like reading a book you’ve found helpful or having a regular phone call where you can talk to them about your journey as an ASD parent. You’ll need a team throughout your journey and empowering others in your life with ways to step in and be helpful will be useful for everyone. 

And finally, give your family and friends the tools they need to be a positive person in your child’s life. An autism diagnosis does not need to be something that will drastically alter anyone’s relationship with your child. But, providing information specific to your child’s challenges will let your family know what to expect when they see your child which will take the surprise out of the interaction. Every diagnosis is different, and every child with ASD is unique. For those not extremely familiar with ASD, their understanding of how it presents can be generalized and may not apply to your child’s behaviors. Maybe your child is social and likes to interact, but struggles with sharing which can be difficult with cousins. Or maybe your child has a difficult time making eye contact, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his grandmother and that can be easily explained. If you have already started treatment, you can talk to your clinician about ways to guide your friends and family during their visit. You may also want to prepare a list of positive ways that an ASD diagnosis will impact your child. With a diagnosis, your child may now be eligible for aids and therapies that they otherwise would not be able to access. 

Unfortunately, one thing you will also need to be prepared for is negative reactions. While a diagnosis can provide clarity, there will potentially be sadness or denial. Allow family members to process the information on their own, but let them know that you’re doing what is best for your child and have an amazing group of experts and professionals working with you to do that. You can always ask your clinician or doctor for research and information that can explain ASD and treatments to them. 

The holidays can present many challenges, but sharing your child’s diagnosis doesn’t have to be one of them. If you’re looking for professional help in how to navigate these situations, an AnswersNow clinician can provide parent support. Click here to learn more.


Sources: 

https://childmind.org/article/sharing-an-autism-diagnosis-with-family-and-friends/ 

https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-and-your-family 

https://carmenbpingree.com/blog/tips-for-explaining-autism-to-family-and-friends/ 


Sasha Y.

AnswersNow BCBA

Specializes in:

Communication deficits, social skills deficits, verbal behavior, academic/pre-academic skills, functional skills, school-based supports, vocational skills, natural environment teaching.

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