Talking to your Child about Autism

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Continuing on from my post discussing if you should tell your child that they have autism, this week I’m going to discuss how to talk to your child about their diagnosis.

When should I tell my child they are autistic?

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As with autism, the answer to this question is entirely individual. Some higher functioning autists may be ready for this information at a younger age than others, or may even be so high functioning as to not need this information during their formative years (as in my case- though in hindsight it would have helped a lot!).Β Timing can also vary with the age of diagnosis. Girls for example are often diagnosed much later in life than boys with autism.

In general, many experts recommend telling your child around the time they start to become self aware of their differences to their peers- roughly around 6 years old, but this awareness will vary among autists. I, for example, always felt that I was different to my peers, but I never openly questioned it until after I had received my diagnosis in my 20’s.

How do I tell my child they are autistic?

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As with when, there is no right or wrong way as to how you talk to your child about autism (just maybe don’t spring it on them out of nowhere the way my parents did πŸ˜› ), but here are some tips and tricks that may help you:

  • Pick your moment– be very careful with you timing. Make sure that your child is content and calm in a familiar place, things will be much harder if they are anxious
  • Don’t rush– Ensure that there is plenty of time to talk things through with your child. They will have questions and may need extra time to process what you are saying
  • Keep it simple– There will be plenty of time to introduce them to the world of neurodiversity as they grow. Just introduce them to autism one toe in the water at a time. Top Tip– There are a lot of useful kids TV shows (such as Sesame street andΒ Arthur)Β  and books explaining autism in an age appropriate way which could help this conversation πŸ™‚
  • Emphasize that this is a good thing– Whilst an autism diagnosis can be difficult to process initially, ultimately it is a good thing. Your child will get the help and supports they need to thrive, they will better understand themselves and be understood. However, the black and white autistic mind deals in good and bad. Sometimes an autist cannot perceive the difference between a little bit bad and plain bad which can cause great distress (Γ  la 6 year old Aoife who thought she had to leave home as she could not be good! πŸ˜› ). Highlight the importance of difference and make it clear that this is not a bad thing for them- different, but not bad πŸ™‚

How do I explain autism to my child’sΒ siblings?

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In much the same way as you would tell a child they are autistic, sit them down and have a casual chat about their sibling (or even friend- awareness in the community is crucial to changing societies attitudes for future generations of autists πŸ™‚ ). Depending on the age of the child, what you tell them can vary to suit. Show them videos, give them a book, tell them a helpful analogy (I do love my SupergirlΒ one!) etc to help them understand. Explain that their friend/sibling works a little bit differently and that they don’t always mean to say or do certain things, but we must love and accept them as they are πŸ™‚

Hope you found this post useful Earthlings!

Enjoy the weekend! πŸ™‚

Aoife

Supporting a Child with Autism

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

For a change today, I’d just like to write a quick post for all of the autism parents out there.

I recently received an email about special needs parenting and it got me thinking about ‘autism parents’. How they must be feeling, the difficulties they face, the struggle to understand, teach and support their child. They really should be called ‘awesome parents’- I certainly didn’t make life easy for mine! πŸ˜›

Autism is not the easiest of diagnoses for a parent to hear, but there are many simple ways that you can support your child. Granted, I’m not an autism parent, but as someone who has been on the other side of the fence, I’ll do my best to give you my top tips to support and encourage your child πŸ™‚

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Educate yourself– Read, read read! Understanding is key to helping your child. A mechanic can’t help your engine if he doesn’t know how it works first.

Don’t believe everything you read–Β  You’ll quickly learn that one size does not fit all when it comes to autism. Each case of autism is different, every autist will have different needs and experiences to the next. The advice and experience of others can be useful, but remember to take everything with a pinch of salt.

Try to put yourself in their shoes– The world is often alien to us, we don’t always fit in or understand it’s ways. We don’t mean to act weird or meltdown and cause trouble, but oftentimes our brain has other ideas. Try to understand how we see the world before you judge us too harshly πŸ™‚

Know their limits, but don’t limit them– This can be a challenging balance to strike. As I have discussed previously, we should endeavour to understand the capabilities of autistic children, but we must not use autism as an excuse– explanation yes, but never excuse. When we repeatedly excuse an autists behaviour, or tell them they “can’t” do something, we keep them from reaching their potential. For example, as a child, I could not seem to master the humble skip. Had my parents told me to give up due to my coordination difficulties, I would never have overcome this struggle- and would have looked pretty stupid in school shows where such simple choreography was the cornerstone of many a dance number! πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰

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Never underestimate the power of small victories– whether it’s getting your child to wear a bra, tie their shoelaces or a mastered skip, sometimes it’s the little steps that can have the greatest impact. Had I not overcome my seemingly left feet, I would not have discovered a love of dance, never danced on stage or gone out to clubs. Without this small victory I would never have gone on to help choreograph my school play or even teach dancing to kids as a teenager! The victories seem small, but they just may be the tip of the majestic iceberg lurking underneath πŸ™‚

Accept the A-word– Acceptance is at the heart of supporting a child with autism. Without this, they can never truly fulfill their potential. There’s no use in burying your head in the sand. We won’t grow out of autism, we need to accept and grow around it.

Always remember:

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So there you have it Earthlings- my top tips for supporting a child with autism. However, like I said, I can only speak from my experiences of autism, soΒ here are some other helpful advice links on more specifc ways to support autistic children:

At the end of the day Earthlings, armed with a little bit of knowledge, understanding and most importantly love- there’s no better way to support your child πŸ™‚

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Aoife

Should I tell my Employer I Have Autism?

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

In continuation from my previous post, I’d like to discuss a very important question for autists in the workplace: should you tell your employer that you are on the spectrum?

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This is a tricky one to tackle.

On the one hand, your employer can better support you and help to adjust aspects of your role to suit your needs; on the other, many employers are poorly informed about autism. As a result of this, you may be misjudged and your true potential overshadowed by the big bad ‘A’ word.

In my career, I have had both positive and negative experiences when informing my employer. One employer was highly supportive- my diagnosis was openly discussed and viewed as an asset. In another position, my abilities were overshadowed by my diagnosis. Having Asperger’s was seen as a problem, and my career was reluctantly diverted down an entirely new road (which thankfully was fruitful). As a result of this, I chose not to reveal my diagnosis to my current employer in order to allow my work to speak for itself without an autism filter.

So what should you do?

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There is no right or wrong answer to this question; the answer is entirely individual. In my case, thankfully my needs are minimal (a bottle of water and some snacks go a long way towards managing my more eccentric behaviours, and the occasional cake will help distract from foot-in-mouth tendencies πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰ ). I am in the lucky position where I can pass for neurotypical,Β however, there are many autists out there that may struggle in the workplace if not adequately supported by their employer.

Ultimately the “right” answer is what is right for you.

Assess the situation- Do you need the extra support? Would you feel more comfortable/uncomfortable if your co-workers were aware? Is this the kind of company that will support you if you choose to tell them?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you.Β  You are under no obligation to reveal this information if you are no comfortable doing so.

And remember- whatever your decision, it will all come right in the end. If an employer doesn’t want you, then you don’t want them.

There are much better opportunities waiting out there for you πŸ™‚

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Aoife

Should I Tell My Child They Have Autism?

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

So today we’re going to discuss a very important question when it comes to growing up with autism- should autists be made aware of their diagnosis?bitmoji185739333

Now this question is a little bit tricky.

On one hand, we have the parents who do not want their child to know at all; they want their child to grow up as “normally” as possible so that they may never be held back by the autistic label.

In a sense, part of me would agree with this approach. In a lot of ways, growing up undiagnosed was a blessing in disguise. I was never treated differently (well, by teachers at least- children are another kettle of fish!) and I grew up to be a “normally” functioning adult with a job and friends, never held back by the autistic label.

Buuuuuuutttttttt…

Whilst I can appreciate a parents desire for their child to thrive, the decision not to tell a child about their diagnosis ultimately amounts to sticking your head in the sand.

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We cannot ignore autism and pretend that it’s not happening. There needs to be interventions, strategies and most importantly, understanding.

We don’t just grow out of autism, we need to cultivate an environment so that we can grow around autism. Without self awareness, this will ultimately make life difficult for your child.

What if they found out some other way that they were autistic? If they overheard a teacher, accidentally caught sight of their notes or were taunted by another child? How would you feel if your parents kept something like this from you?

At the end of the day, your child needs to know about their diagnosis; maybe not today or tomorrow, but when the time is right, they will need to know.

Yes, there were some advantages to getting a later diagnosis, but ultimately, life would have been so much simpler for both my parents and I had we known that I was on the spectrum. We would have known how to manage meltdowns, my peers would have understood me better, I wouldn’t have tortured myself for being different- I would have understood and learned to better accept and love me all the sooner.

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So don’t worry about holding your child back, or upsetting them; take a deep breath and find a way to tell them- they will thank you for it in the end πŸ™‚

Aoife

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