Talking with Your Child about Their Autism Diagnosis: A Guide for Parents

Telling your child about their autism diagnosis can be daunting. Will they be better off for knowing? What’s the right way to tell them? Should you inform anyone else too?

As a mother of two children on the spectrum, with over ten years’ experience as a psychologist specialising in childhood autism, Raelene Dundon has all the tips you’ll need. In this concise book, she sets out case studies, examples and resources that will equip you to make your own informed choices and help your whole family to live well with autism. Part One provides ways to tell children of different ages and development levels about their diagnosis, including photocopiable and downloadable worksheets designed to help diagnosed children understand autism, and gives advice on what to do if they react in a negative or unexpected way to the news. Part Two explores the pros and cons of sharing the diagnosis with others, including family, friends, school staff and your child’s classmates, and guides you through what to do if others don’t understand or accept the diagnosis.

Having 2 daughters on the spectrum I jumped at the chance to check this book out; my daughters are still young enough that we haven’t had that conversation but I know the day will come.

I truly appreciated this book and felt the advice it contained was helpful, healing and straightforward. The author obviously put tremendous effort into the research and poured her heart into creating a tome that is both educational and uplifting. She went beyond just telling you what to say and how to say it.

You get to start at the beginning with those words that seem so incredibly hard to hear – the diagnosis, the end to one path and the beginning of another. You have to accept the truth and new reality that will be your child’s life when those seemingly simple yet heavy words are spoken and what your new responsibilities will be as a parent.

Autism can be such a hot button issue that depending on where your child fits on the spectrum you will have to decide who needs to know, what effect letting others know has, what kind of people will be involved in their lives or not and most important of all how are you even going to start that conversation?

When my girls were first diagnosed at 4 (my oldest) and 3 (my youngest) it was so obvious we had to offer explanations if only just so people would back off.

I had a father stand by while his children bullied my oldest for not understanding the ‘social rules’ of the games they were playing on the playground.

At another time a mother went off on my youngest in a Barnes & Noble for not sharing legos with her daughter when her child ask mine for them; my youngest at the time was non-verbal and didn’t understand what the child was asking and personally I didn’t see the need to explain as there were TONS of legos on the table so there was no need for my daughter to turn over the ones she had to the other.

In both instances I let the parents know they were bullying a special needs child and explained that being on the spectrum meant my children didn’t understand what theirs were wanting.

I admittedly began isolating my kids from neurotypicals for a few years in order to protect them not just from other children but their parents.

One of the things I loved is that the author point blank stated that autism cannot be cured which is a belief I share; I do not think it can be cured any more than down syndrome yet you don’t hear people touting cures for that. She also provides worksheets, questions, illustrations and a great fill in the blank that allows your child to take an interactive part in your discussion.

It was easier for me to want to read and take her advice because she has a son on the spectrum and this is her personal journey along with his. I’m more apt to listen to a fellow mom who has walked in my shoes than someone who has just spent time researching it.

At its most basic this is just an intimate guide that tells you how, when, why and what to do if problems come up but it’s also more than that; it’s a story, a journey, a life many of us lead and we are all just trying our best.

Thank you to Netgalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for allowing me to review this!

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