One of my families asked me a while ago for some ideas about how to broach the subject of their child's autism diagnosis. I put together this collection of excellent resources that had already been shared amongst my RDI colleagues as the result of a former query, and thought it might be useful to others, so am sharing it here.
With grateful thanks to Terry Frank; Barbara Avila; Lauren Wilson and Kathy Darrow. Here goes.....
From Terry (initial query)
I am looking for suggestions and resources for parents who are wanting to help their high functioning ten year old understand his autism diagnosis. Also I'm interested in opinions from parents on the timing of this. We are feeling that he needs to understand the reasons for some of his behavior and difficulties in friendship.
1. Stephen Shore (adult with autism) youtube interview when Stephen is asked ‘should you tell your child about their autism diagnosis?’
It maybe important to emphasize the fluidity of an autism diagnosis. Just because it looks one way today, doesn't mean that's the only way it will look. And the child has some control over it- as we all do over certain innate differences
Carol Dweck has done some interesting research (not related to autism) about the impact of teaching kids about their brain and what they can do with it. The impact for kids of knowing that their brain is like a muscle that they can make stronger was a positive one. Some of her work on the subject is found here and here.
One family shared that to normalize the idea that everyone has differences they "work" on each member of the family shared goals they were also working on. We're all in process.
For my own kids, I have taken the route of letting all my kids know that they are all individuals with strengths and weakness. Mom and Dad have different strengths and weaknesses too! We all work on what we want to get better at. My son no longer asks about this ( he is 14 and really is not struggling socially in school at this point) but when he was younger he did alot of comparing himself to his older brother. I did not feel it was going to be beneficial to bring up autism with him over and over so making it more a family affair where we all see what each other is good at etc. From doing this he learned to process how everyone is unique apart from labels. Every person has weaknesses. He typically loved hearing stories when he was younger about all my weaknesses!
Thanks again to the above RDI Consultants. One of the best things about the RDI community is that you always know that someone will be able to help with guidance and suggestions.
Hope that is useful for people.