It was an interesting day in Sunday School. My three-year-old daughter took her teacher by surprise by asking, “Where is God?” We just started a preschool class for her age group six weeks ago. I think the teacher was a little surprised by such an advanced topic. How fun.

Meanwhile in “Bible Buddies”, my older daughter’s class, one of the little boys looked at my daughter and spouted out of nowhere, “Do you have autism?” She said, “No,” because we’ve never discussed any of her particular diagnosis or challenges with her. She’s been showing some signs of knowing that she is different from some of her peers, and I’ve always known that at some point we would need to discuss these things with her, but Sunday School didn’t seem to be the right place or time. Fortunately it was my Sunday to teach, so I was there. Unfortunately the little boy proceeded to tell us what he knew about autism, some of which was false. I told him that I knew a little bit about autism and that some of what he was saying was not true. I asked him to learn a little more before talking about it. I didn’t answer his initial query. We moved on to safer topics. Crisis averted – sort of. My daughter’s behavior was pretty rocky after that but I couldn’t tell if it was because of the autism discussion or if it was something else that was bothering her. Eventually she pulled herself back together and hasn’t asked anything about it since.

My brain, however, has been in overdrive. First wondering how the little boy arrived at such an idea and then wondering what I should do about it. We have never been “ashamed” of our daughter’s diagnosis. We tell people from school to church, and girl scout leaders to gymnastics coaches what they need to know to help her thrive in each environment. Still the idea of telling her this information is daunting. It’s not as simple, for some reason, as, for instance, telling your child that they have asthma, and yet I’m wondering why it should be so much different. Her brain processes information in a different way. What is so terrible about that? Perhaps it is knowing that, like our little friend, so much of the world has such false notions about what autism is. It will be a tall order to give her an accurate idea of her challenges as well as the skills she needs to self-advocate in view of such a world of misinformation. Perhaps it is just knowing that it affects so much of her experience. It’s not just that she needs to avoid running too fast or too long, it’s everything from coping with the onslaught of auditory stimulus to remembering that people want you to look at them when they are talking to you. Denying destructive habits and building good ones. Finding appropriate outlets for all of the anxiety and frustration that pile in every day.

I am hoping we can put off this heart to heart until early Summer so she’ll have some time away from school pressures to process all of this and readjust before another school year is upon us. Meanwhile I’ll be looking for resources to help us move the discussion to safe ground for her. I’d be more than happy to take any suggestions you might have.

Have you talked with your child about his or her challenges?

Why or why not?

If you have how did you go about it?

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