Thursday, February 26, 2009

Telling Your Child About His/Her Aspergers Diagnosis

In my search of other autism blogs, I came across "Life With Aspergers" which discussed the topic, "When should I tell my son about his diagnosis of Aspergers?" This question really resonates with me, and I'll tell you why:

I think it's important to tell children when they're old enough to understand, but I also agree with the concern that we dont' leave the child subsequently feeling "defective." In the case of the original article, the question was asked by the parent of a 7 year old. At 7, the child probalby doesn't feel too different from other children. I didn't at 7. In fact, though I felt sometimes lonely in high school, it wasn't til my senior year in high school that I realized something was "wrong" with me. This feeling was greatly enhanced in college, because I went to a rather homogenous school and REALLY didn't fit in. Not knowing anything about Aspergers (or not even realizing that people think differently!) I had no way to pin down what, exactly, was "wrong." I couldn't figure it out, and until I discovered about Aspergers I really did feel bad about myself. Frustrated with myself. At times, disgusted even.

Before senior year, I thought everyone was like me. Thought and felt the same way. I was lonely at times, but had my one or two quirky friends (depending on the year) and so I didn't feel too left out. Besides, I knew that the other kids had money and I didn't. There's only so much you can do with other girls (who like to shop) when you're broke and even less you can do with the guys (when you're waiting for marriage).

But college was tough. And I think knowing about Aspergers would have helped. Had anyone known about it back then.

When I look back now at what I have accomplished, I am thankful to be so far ahead of where I should be professionally, socially, and in my family life. Most people I've met in Aspergers/Autism groups aren't doing as well as I am doing. They haven't learned to cope as well (that sounds weird given how FAR I have yet to go) and they haven't learned how to survive in my type of job (again, I still have FAR to go!). I'm not trying to brag or anything because (trust me) I still need a LOT of work. But I've been blessed and rather than being so upset that I'm not like everyone else, I am learning to appreciate my differneces and praise Him for how far He's brought me.

So, I said allthat to say: If I had a 7 year old, I may not tell him "you've got Asperger's" but I might start pointing out ways in which he things, processes, communicates, settles himself, differently than others. If he has anger problems like I did, I would begin to point that out and tell him how very much like his mother he is. I suspect as he ages, I would give him more information, but allow him to take it at a pace he can handle.

Of course, I can say this- I don't have a 7 year old. Anyone out there care to share your thougths on why you did/didn't tell your child about his/her diagnosis?