How would you explain to a child that they have autism?

Mike Stuart

Mike Stuart


How do you explain to your child that they are autistic? What is the ‘correct’ age and how should it be done? This is a subject that many parents have difficulty with, the knowing of ‘how’ and ‘when’ to tell your child. There are however resources and information available to help parents with these decisions.

Mike Stuart, Community Manager, of Talk About Autism, started a discussion last week on Storify, entitled, ‘How should you explain to a child that they have autism?

Mike told Autism Daily Newscast that,

“Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. We provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change. One of the services we provide is the online community, Talk about Autism, where I’m the Community Manager.”

One of the many parents talking honestly and openly on Storify was Susan Spence, from Northants. She shared a blog post that she had written about her decision to tell James, her son 9, that he has Asperger’s Syndrome.

Talking openly to Autism Daily Newscast Susan explained,

James and Susan Spence

James and Susan Spence

“James was diagnosed at 9 and we told him about 4 months after. We were advised not to tell him initially as his anxiety was so high at that point he would only see it as a bad thing and as something being wrong with him. So we held off until his anxiety was more stable. This was the right time for him, because it helped him see why he behaves how he does sometimes, and that there was a reason for it all.

“I think it helped his anxiety to reduce even further – he knew that he wasn’t ‘weird’ and there wasn’t something wrong with him, just that he has ASD. It’s also helped him to know that other people have ASD too, and that they think the same way he does. So I guess there’s no particular age that is ‘right’, parents/carers will know the best time for their child. We found the best time to tell James, when he could process it without it being a problem, and that it actually helped him to know about it.”

Mike Stuart advised Autism Daily Newscast of useful resources and information for parents who are making the decision to tell their child that they are autistic. One resource, ‘Diagnosis: telling a child about their diagnosis’, available on the National Autistic Society website includes the following help topics:

  • When should I tell my child they have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
  • How should I tell my child about their diagnosis?
  • What else can I do if my child feels anxious about the diagnosis?

Other resources suggested by Mike Stuart include a video ‘Explaining Autism to Children: ASD and Me’ and the article ‘Explaining the Diagnosis to the Child with Autism’ by Autism Asperger’s Digest.

Susan Spence recently completed The Bupa Great North Run as Jo Whiley’s running buddy and raised money for Ambitious About Autism.  You can follow her on twitter

You can follow Talk About Autism on Facebook,  twitter and their online forums.