I’m not a big television watcher but the buzz this week on social media sites was apparently Max’s parents finally sitting down and telling him he had Asperger’s (that Parenthood show). Now, on the show Max is like, ten? Something like that? Ten. Soak that in for a minute. And they were JUST telling him.
I watched a clip of the scene over and over. It was emotional. It was dramatic. And it was…ridiculous. I’m sorry, I know not everyone agrees with me but there is a reason I skip that show. It’s because of the way they treat autism on the show. And many other shows and movies, for that matter. The parents were petrified to tell their kid. They were upset. They were embarrassed. The looks on their faces said it all. They were afraid to tell him.
My advice to you? DON’T. Don’t be afraid to tell them.
If your kid had chicken pox, or a rash, or diabetes or cancer, would you keep it from them? If they had a broken arm? If they had a stomach virus? If they needed glasses? If they were gifted? If they made the baseball team? If they got straight A’s on a test? You’d tell them. You’d tell them in every case.Or you should tell them. Because it’s wrong to withold information from them, when it’s about them. If they are autistic or have PDD or Asperger’s or ADHD or OCD, it doesn’t matter. They deserve to know.
Start with books. Start with books or stories on their level. Talk to them, read to them, discuss it with them. Don’t blame their issues on their disabilities. Never, EVER let them use it as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. Make them understand it’s part of who they are, their brain may work differently but they are super-amazing kids. Tell them it makes them unique and different but it also makes them BETTER. It enhances them. Celebrate it with them. Understand their struggles, explain it’s WHY they count everything/hate the cafeteria/stim but don’t put the blame on their autism. Help them learn to accept it, shrug their shoulders and move on.
A diagnosis not a death sentence. A label is not a negative thing. It’s a means to an end. It is a tool to get services and work through issues.
Don’t underestimate your kids. Presume intelligence. Even if you think they cannot understand, they get something. They will understand something. Don’t be like people I know with a NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD who doesn’t understand why he is different and gets frustrated because he’s never, ever been told why. You might be surprised at how well your kid accepts it.
You might have a kid like mine who’s all, “Autism? Dude. I can totally handle it. Whatever. Easy.”
You might have a kid like mine who looks at me when I say it, shrugs his shoulders and goes out to jump on his trampoline. Sure, he’s non-verbal, but I think he knows and I think he doesn’t care. He does, however, care about how many slices of pepperoni are on his pizza.
You might have a kid like mine who explains his autism to people in terms of “autism super powers.” His super power is super-reading and math and super-sonic hearing and touch (clothing tags are bad, yo). His brother’s super power is lightning fast speed, super strength and flexibility. Able to leap stockade fences in a single bound.Expert locksmith, too (We’ve only had to call 911 twice. It’s okay).
You might have a kid who tells people that his autism gives him Jedi powers. And he’ll refer to himself as Luke Skywalker Jedi. And wear a cape with shorts and cowboy boots and a light saber (pool noodle) attached to his belt loop.
But most of all, you might have a kid with autism and that’s okay. And it’s okay to tell them. And you don’t have to worry. They’re going to be just fine.