How Should I Inform my Child of Their Diagnosis?

How Should I Inform my Child of Their Diagnosis?

By Dr Wesley Turner, Clinical Psychologist

A common question that crops up when working with children with Autism Spectrum is when and how their child should be informed of their diagnosis.

Caution often needs to be had when informing children and adolescents that they are on the Autism Spectrum without first gauging their level of self-concept, anxiety and level of negative thinking.

As many children on the spectrum can struggle with underdeveloped sense of self identify, low self-esteem, anxiety and/or depression, the notion of being on the spectrum can often add further distress. However, when the message is communicated in a positive, strength-focused way, it is typically an enlightening message that helps rewrite the child’s understanding of themselves and their role within the world.

If they feel comfortable doing so, parents may wish to watch the resources like the following videos with their children and see how they react and/or relate to the people featured in them. Parents can use these resources such as these as a launching pad to discuss how their children think and act, and the personal strengths they bring to their lives. If parents are concerned how their children may react or of the impact it may have on their child’s mood and self-esteem, we recommend that the informing of diagnosis take place during a session with a clinician experienced with ASD.

Information on autism:

An episode of ‘Arthur’ dedicated to educating children on Asperger’s syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder:

A TEDx talk by Krister Palo, a 15-year-old student with Asperger’s syndrome:

At Minds & Hearts, we also suggest that parents may wish to utilise the following resources with their younger and/or adolescent children:

  • Hoopmann, K. (2001). Of Mice and Aliens: An Asperger adventure. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Hoopmann, K. (2001). Blue Bottle Mystery: An Asperger adventure. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Hoopmann, K. (2002). Lisa and the Lacemaker: An Asperger adventure. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

(These books by K Hoopmann are a series of adventure stories in which the central character has ASD. These books are written by an Australian parent and suitable for children aged 8years+).

  • Jackson, L. (2002). Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (A non-fiction book about how it is like having ASD. The book was written by the then 13-year-old Luke Jackson who has ASD himself).
  • Welton, J., Telford, J., & Newson, E. (2003). Can I Tell You about Asperger Syndrome?: A Guide for Friends and Family. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (About an 11 year old boy with ASD. For children 7 to 15 years to increase their understanding)
  • Haddon, M. (2007). The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. National Geographic Books. (About a 15 year old boy with ASD. A funny and sad book recommended for teenagers and adults)
  • Ogaz, N. (2003). Wishing on the Midnight Star: My Asperger Brother. Jessica Kingsley. (Recommended for those aged between 8 and 15 years. Adventure story of two brothers, one with ASD, and the dilemmas they face).