Receiving an autism diagnosis for your child is often a tough pill to swallow, and can be just about as tricky to explain to close friends and family. While less stigma around the condition exists than in previous decades, certain preconceptions and misinformation can be barriers to understanding how to interact with a relative or family friend with autism. If your child has recently received an autism diagnosis, having intentional conversations with those closest to you will help with future visits.
Given the potential emotions that may be strong in the moment, whether it be anxiety over potential future struggles, or perhaps relief of finding an explanation for your child’s needs, it is a good idea to let the dust settle before addressing others about your child’s autism.
When talking to friends and family about your child with autism, it is crucial to not preface it by saying “we have some bad news” or anything of the sort. Simply state that your child was recently diagnosed with autism and they have some needs to be aware of for the next visit.
It’s important to focus on addressing their social deficits, such as not making eye contact, not understanding certain facial cues, limitations in verbal ability, or impatience, as unintentional and part of their diagnosis. This helps others to be prepared to have the proper understanding of the need for extra patience and grace with your child.
Helping close friends and relatives understand your child’s need for routine, sets of rules and rewards, or other parameters you set based on their needs, will prove important as well. This will prepare them for times where you may need help with supervision, whether it be for an hour while you visit in the other room, or whether you ask them so watch your child for a weekend getaway with your spouse.
Above all, remember to always speak positively of your child. While it may be therapeutic to discuss struggles at times, never let it slip into the realm of venting about your child. Always stress the ways in which your child is more like other children than different and focus on successes they are having.
Parenting a child with autism is an adventure with its ups and downs, just like parenting any other child, so don’t be afraid to let your friends and family in on the adventure as well.