I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine about how he felt when or if we discussed his autism.
For some reason, this was the first time we had such an open conversation about his diagnosis.
My friend let me know about some personal experiences he had when discussing his autism, as well as instances where he or his parents informed others of his diagnosis.
1. He told me that sometimes the language that his parents used with him, seemed to come straight out of a book. There were good intentions, but the delivery was far from organic.
Remember, even though your child may have ASD, they are more cognizant and self-aware than perhaps you give them credit. Try not to talk down to them or use belittling language and tone of voice.
2. He told me that his parents often times made it a point to inform everyone they knew or came in contact with that their child had autism.
Remember, it may be pertinent for certain professionals and/or acquaintances to be aware of your child’s diagnosis, but not all. It really comes down to how your child presents symptoms of ASD. If you decide to inform others of your child’s ASD diagnosis, do it discreetly.
Again, ASD doesn’t make your child any less worthy of confidentiality. I mean, you wouldn’t tell everyone you meet, “Nice to meet you, this is my husband Jack, he has manic depressive disorder and chronic anxiety.”
3. He told me that he was invited to present some of his artwork at a local convention.
Excited to present his art, he happily agreed. Upon arrival, he realized that it was a convention specifically for those with autism. His heart sunk. As people came to discuss his piece, they used condescending tones, like as if he was hard of hearing. Again, there were good intentions, but alienating none the less.
Remember, those diagnosed with autism are just as capable as anyone. I recognize that each situation is unique, and each child presents differently. There will certainly be cases where an autism friendly environment is the safest and most appropriate place for your child to express themselves, meet others and grow.
However, I suggest that you be open about this with your child, do not preclude them from opportunities solely on the basis of their diagnosis. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of, but make sure your child is as comfortable being open about it as you are.
Ultimately, we determined that it is important to exercise transparency and honesty when we discuss autism and its symptoms with our children or friends. Especially, when we discuss it with those who are not familiar with it. Always respecting the privacy of whoever has been diagnosed.
We also decided that we should never let it become an “elephant in the room” so to speak. By striving to have open and frequent dialogue about the wonderful nuances and challenges of autism, we can decrease the stigma that is often associated with it.
Collectively, we can change the narrative regarding autism and create awareness. This community deserves the same level of love, support and care as any other.
What are you doing to change the narrative?
How do you discuss autism with your child? Friends and neighbors?