Does your child know they have Autism?

By: Renée Knipper, Behavior Essentials Intake Specialist

For our family, our children were all diagnosed at the same time when they were 3, 4, and 5 years old. They grew up knowing they all had Autism. For us, the struggle was not deciding whether or not to tell them they were Autistic, it was discussing with them what that meant for each of them. Then respecting their decision to share that information or not, and helping them to deal with the terrible things people would say about individuals with Autism.

Our oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was five years old. It was explained to us that he was high functioning. He never wanted anyone to know he had Autism, but he has given me permission to share his story. He only recently (in his teenage years) has discussed with me the struggle he faces feeling alien like because he sees and feels things differently than his friends and siblings seem to do. However, he also feels that he has been able to use some of his Autistic traits to his advantage like not feeling the pull to give in to peer pressure or get distracted by people around him when he is studying.

Our youngest daughter was originally diagnosed with low functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of four. She has always been very outspoken and honest about her Autism. Starting at a very young age, she has discussed quite frequently with me what being Autistic feels like to her and how it makes her different from the other kids. As a teenager, she has presented in her classes the struggles she faces on a daily basis as a person living with Autism, as well as her strengths. Our youngest child is a hybrid of his two older siblings. He was originally diagnosed in the mid-range, not high functioning, not low functioning. He doesn’t go out of his way to share his diagnosis, but he doesn’t hide it either. It is simply a part of who he is, like his passion for Legos, soccer, or theater.

The most difficult part, in my opinion, about them knowing they have Autism, is having to handle the horrible things kids at school say about people with Autism. One example happened just last year. I was a chaperone on a field trip for my son’s orchestra class when I heard one of the other kids call a broken instrument Autistic and all the kids laughed. I could not believe that was how these kids see people with Autism, like my children, as broken. Beyond that, they have absolutely no shame in saying it out loud.

Those are the conversations that are the hardest to have with my amazing autistic children. You are not broken.

At Behavior Essentials, we meet parents where they are.


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