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Should I tell my child that he has Aspergers?

We struggled with this issue for some time, and eventually sat our son down and told him. In our case, he kept asking why the other kids called him "weird". To tell or not tell your youngster or others of their diagnosis of Aspergers (high functioning autism)? It’s really a personal decision that has pros and cons on either side. Some parents may struggle with telling a 3 year old they have Aspergers, fearing they may not understand; that it could frighten them.

While saying directly “The doctor says you have Aspergers,” may be unnecessary, talking about the characteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in a way the youngster can relate to is vital in helping the youngster towards self-acceptance as they mature.

Being open about your youngster’s different way of thinking and processing, and connecting those traits to Aspergers characteristics is the key to success in helping your youngster towards self-acceptance. The earlier they become comfortable with Aspergers ‘shop-talk’ the easier it will be when they are pre-teen and adolescent age. Kids with Aspergers need to be able to focus on their strengths more than ever at this age when their social-skill deficits can seem more prominent.

Remembering though that people on the Autistic Spectrum do not always ‘connect the dots’ in the correct order, it may be necessary at some point to say “You have Aspergers” for clarification.

So should you tell your youngster’s part-time employer about Aspergers…and if so, when? When they are applying for a job? When they get the job? Or never?

This also comes down to personal choice. However, sometimes it can be helpful to have an employer support contributing to the success of your youngster’s employment experience.

Our son, Jon, doesn’t like to mention it when he’s applying for a position or when he initially begins work. He doesn’t want it to influence the employers’ decision to hire him, one way or another. Then he doesn’t like to tell them of his Aspergers too soon, because he doesn’t want to “freak them out”. But ultimately he likes to tell them of his diagnosis, and explain to them what that means, because he feels like he’s hiding a secret if he doesn’t. As he says, “It’s a part of me, and they can’t know who I really am unless they know of my Aspergers.” (Sometimes I swear he’s a 44 year old inside a 14 year old body!)

So far we’ve been very fortunate in the employer’s who have given our son a job. They’ve been very understanding, and have helped by finding out about Aspergers, and matching the strengths of Aspergers with the duties/tasks assigned to him. They’ve praised his work ethic, his efficiency, his enthusiasm and manners. They’ve been understanding and compassionate when his anxiety or depression has caused him to miss work, and not held it against him the next time he’s there. Just as someone may miss work due to asthma, or the flu they understand that depression/anxiety is part of Aspergers.

The members of our family have reached the stage where telling about Aspergers is just like saying “my eyes are blue” – a comment that helps the listener come to know you (or your son or brother) a little better. After all, life is a never-ending quest to make connections with others, whether fleeting or lasting!


Anonymous said...

Just wondering, how old did you tell your aspie that he has aspergers? my aspie is 7 and i also have a 6 year old with autism. we tell them they have issues with their brain so they have try harder than other kids but that they can do lots of stuff still with effort and time. they were non verbal until 3 1/2 to 4 years old and used to not look us in the eyes at all. we continue to see improvement though i am not looking for or expecting a recovery by any means. when do you think is a good age to actually tell the actual diagnosis? any thoughts would be appreciated it.

Anonymous said...

Karen Gomez Vega ok then, another question-how do you explain it in terms that a 6 or 7 year old can comprehend? they already know that they are different and need extra help, we have watched parts of parenthood where max melts down or withdraws (we have one that internalizes and one that acts out) and talked about another aspie boy at their school and how he has a hard time too. they have also been to events with other children with aspergers and autism and i run a support group in coordination with CARD. i feel confident they know what is going on and understand it i just have not labeled it per se. thanks for your thoughts!
5 hours ago · Like
Julie Edwards My son has,nt had a diagnosis yet,but we are very open with him,and when we see the doctor,he is there with us even if major issues crop up. My son knows he has to try extra hard with socialising and being nice to people. The more open you are the better,because it will help them in later life,and cope with negative comments of other people. My son is accepting it quite well now,and no diagnosis yet.
4 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Julie Edwards I agree with not labelling a child,to me it's a diagnosis like a physical disability but in their brain.
4 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Lucy O'Neill I think personally when the child starts to ask questions, clearly if they are not asking then they are perhaps not necessarily aware that they are different. There are some great books out there to show your child and explain to them what Autism or Aspergers is. Good luck x
3 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Karen Gomez Vega thanks so much everyone. they are not asking questions yet i just try to explain what is happening to them so that we can work on it as a team. we have a counselor and a behavioral therapist plus their school is amazing so we are very blessed in that respect. i know we will have the talk about autism and aspergers at some point. we have already gotten the sensitive sam book but they did not really get it so we will re read as they get older and get other books too. again, thank you so much all!
3 hours ago · Like

shawnna said...

My son is 5 and the kids are just starting to call him weird and other things.He knows he's different and I am gonna tell him soon.I just don't know how much and how to say it.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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