Over the past few weeks it’s kind of only just occurred to me that there are some individuals out there who actively choose not to disclose their child’s autism diagnosis with them.
When I say it’s “only just” occurred to me, I’m being serious. Because I actually cannot believe that a parent in their right mind would not tell their child such an important piece of information.
I’ve heard some parents insinuate that they don’t want to “burden” their child with a label or “make” their child feel different to everyone else.
And to those parents out there, I have some hard truths for you to hear:
Number one: Your child more than likely already knows that they’re different.
Children are not stupid. They are innately intelligent, and they can tell when others react differently to them, or when they react differently to others their age. They can see when they struggle with things other kids don’t. They more than likely already know that they aren’t like their peers. And they are probably wondering why.
Number two: This is your issue, not your child’s.
Being autistic is not some huge deficit. It isn’t a flaw or something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t make anyone any less than anyone else. It just is. It’s a different way of thinking, feeling and seeing the world. And different is not wrong. So chances are, if you tell me you’re hiding your child’s diagnosis from them because you are worried for them – I don’t believe you. Because you are projecting your own issues about difference onto your child. It is your stuff, not theirs. Children are innately resilient, loving and accepting of difference.
And finally, number three: When you choose to withhold something like an autistic diagnosis from your child, what you are actually doing is withholding a large portion of their identity.
Autism isn’t something you can take on and off. It’s not a hat or a piece of clothing that you can choose to wear. It is all-encompassing and covers every single element of the life of the autistic individual. By not telling your child about their diagnosis you are directly impacting their ability to understand their own triggers and reasons for the way they feel, see and do the things they do. And a child has every right to know those pieces of information. They form their identity, and they solidify and concrete the way they fit in and view their world. It is not your right to fail to disclose such a thing.
You can tell me I’m wrong, and you can tell me you know better. But I will tell you that I am married to an incredible man who didn’t realise he was autistic until he was 30 years old. And it wasn’t because his wonderful mother didn’t tell him, either – she didn’t know. And I know if she did know, she would have told him. But if my husband did know, he would have had far less self-esteem issues and far less struggle with working out his place in the world. He would have accepted himself more, loved himself more and felt more confident as a contributing and worthwhile wholly-fantastic member of society.
Autism isn’t something to be afraid of. Ignorance is, it is toxic and debilitating. And if you deliberately choose to not be open with your child about why they are the way they are, you are directly contributing to that cycle. Your child deserves to know, their identity depends on it. Don’t perpetuate the fear of being different. Embrace it.
If you want to find out about how I told Sno she was autistic, read this post,