Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Myths about
Keeping the Diagnosis a Secret
When you get an Asperger’s diagnosis for your child, there are a lot of things that you have to think about. There are therapies and behavior management plans, IEPs and social skills.
But one thing that many parents struggle with that isn’t covered nearly as well is how much to tell your child about their diagnosis, and how early.
Some parents are against putting a label on their child. Some think that it will negatively affect the way the child sees him or herself.
Others believe that early education about an Asperger’s diagnosis is one of the best things that you can do for a child’s sense of self and ability to learn how to function in the world.
There are reasons behind each school of thought. And there are no hard and fast answers. But generally speaking, anecdotal evidence suggests that having the knowledge of Asperger’s earlier in life results in being more well-adjusted, receiving much needed help and support, and a much decreased tendency towards the kind of depression that can occur when you know something is “different” about you but you don’t know what.
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Reasons Not to Label
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Closing Doors
Some parents are afraid that it will “close doors” to their child if people know about their child’s Asperger’s diagnosis.
They are afraid that people will just see their child as a stereotype, as a set of behaviors to control and shape, rather than getting to know them as a person. They might assume or automatically assign values to the child that aren’t even there or that they wouldn’t see if they hadn’t been colored by the diagnosis.
While this can happen sometimes, it is much more likely that an Asperger’s diagnosis and label will help the child get the help and support they need. People are a lot more understanding of behaviors that are different than the norm if they understand why they are there.
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Something Wrong
Some parents don’t want their kids to feel like something is “wrong” with them, so they avoid talking about the diagnosis or putting any kind of label on the child. They want the child to be able to be a free spirit.
Unfortunately, kids don’t live in a vacuum. No matter how much you might want your child to feel like there’s nothing different about them they will learn otherwise.
Kids aren’t stupid – they realize when there’s something different about them, and they want to know why.
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Discouraging Prognosis
The medical community can be extremely discouraging about an Asperger’s or autism diagnosis.
Sometimes, doctors will paint a bleak picture of a child’s future, saying that he will never live independently or get a job, will have to be institutionalized, and so on. This can quite obviously scare a lot of parents.
It’s important to seek second and third opinions, read books with a more positive message, and do your own research on outcomes on the Internet and look for hopeful messages.
Don’t listen to negative messages from the medical community. Choose to believe your child is capable of anything that he wants or needs to be, and he just might surprise you.
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Reasons to Tell your Child
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Kids can Tell the Difference
Kids sense differences between themselves and others much earlier than you might think.
In order to build a healthy sense of self-esteem and a good self-concept, explain to your child that while they may have difficulties in some areas because of their Asperger’s diagnosis, they have strengths that others may not have.
Illustrate to them that everyone is different in some way, and that this is not a bad thing, just merely the way things are.
There is a storyline in the NBC TV show “Parenthood” where the kid with Asperger’s, Max, is running for student council president on a platform of bringing back the soda machines that were removed from the school.
He gives a short speech that goes something like, “You should vote for me because I will bring back the soda machines. (Long pause) Also, I have something called Asperger’s Syndrome. Because of this I am very persistent and I will make things happen. I am also very loyal and I will work to help you with your problems.”
Max chose to focus on the aspects of his Asperger’s that set him apart and make him a strong contender for student council.
Asperger’s Diagnosis – Knowledge is Power
You may think that you are letting them be free, but without knowing or learning what natural boundaries exist in the social world, and failing over and over again, any sense of self-confidence and ability is crushed.
One of the hardest things in life is knowing you’re different and not having the vocabulary and knowledge to explain why
Asperger’s Diagnosis – What to Do
Make sure your child knows about their strengths. Maybe they have a good memory, are persistent, are honest, make sure they know these are special traits.
Let your child know they may likely have problems in certain areas. They may be over-sensitive to sounds, smells, lights etc. They may worry a lot about things. They may notice they have trouble relating to other kids.
Tell them how much you love them and always will – reassurance is important!
Inform them you will be able to deal with any problems their Asperger’s causes together as a family.
Here is 1 possible way to open up the topic to your child,
“There is nothing wrong with having this; it just means you think a little bit differently than other people. But it also makes you a really special person. You can always talk to me about any problems you are having, or any questions that you might have.”
Add more details as the child gets older, or asks more questions about his or her Asperger’s diagnosis. The question of labeling versus not labeling can be a tricky one, but all things considered, giving more information rather than less about an Asperger’s diagnosis seems to be the best way to go about it.
And for much more great information on autism spectrum disorders read the Craig Kendall book, New Hope for Autism.