How Should I Tell My Child They’re Autistic?

“How should I tell my child they’re autistic?”

-Many concerned parents

I cannot count how many parents have messaged me about this question. It’s so many that keeping track would depress me.

Some parents approach their child’s neurology almost like “the birds and the bees” talk. It feels weird and awkward. But of course, your child’s neurology is not something that should be awkward or a source of fear or shame. Why is it though? I mean, we would never fear telling a child she was diabetic or epileptic- NOT knowing those things causes more issues. The same is true for autism.

Some parents fear telling their child will limit them in some way; almost like uttering this truth will unleash some kind of power over the child. These parents treat sharing their child’s autism diagnosis  like characters in Harry Potter reacted to the name “Voldemort”. 

This kind of makes sense to me. 

Many parents are scared of what autism really means. They don’t know what to do about it, but they know it’s there. 

To call autism by its name somehow gives it more power, maybe? 

And maybe by not calling it by name, a child won’t be so “autistic-y”.

I say that tongue in cheek- but it baffles me how conflicted parents get about this. 

I told my child when he was about 4 because that’s when I first realized he is perfectly fine the way he is. I wished I had told him sooner.  If you know and your child is much older, please do not fret. But take a moment, read the rest of this post, and then tell them!

I started by explaining stimming because that’s how I noticed my child had a different processing system; it was my clue he might be autistic. I didn’t know what stimming was until an autistic adult shared it with me.

Stimming is how a person physically regulates their body when there is a lot of external input. It might be rocking, hand flapping, echolalia, galloping, etc. It explained so much about my child; everything fell into place after that. 

I realized that my son stims a certain way when it’s too loud. He stims differently when he’s excited about something. He stims another way when he is anxious. My son is mostly verbal, but when he is feeling big feelings, he really struggles to articulate his needs. His stims are not random or arbitrary, they are my clue to assist him when he isn’t verbal.

So to answer the question of how to tell your child they’re autistic I say: start with stimming. 

Explain what stimming is to your child (and any of their siblings). I wrote a book about it called The Case of Sensational Stims and it’s on Amazon now. Demonstrate how you stim (because you probably do), but explain that it’s very important for your autistic child because their brain processes information in a particular way. Their particular way has a name.

Their mind is autistic and those who aren’t autistic are called allistic. We all process information a bit differently. No one type is better or worse, they’re just different and we need to honor everyone’s brain (or neurology).

Boom. You did it!

Then… you keep lines of communication open. 

No, you don’t need to talk about it every day, but make sure you say the word autism. There’s not one thing to be ashamed of. Your child was born with a phenomenal mind.   

Ask your child(ren) what autism means to them. Learn from them. Learn with them, Coach them. And remember, autism presents differently in every person. Stims evolve over time. Some things that used to be hard get easier and vice versa. 

The best way to start is to figure out why it feels so uncomfortable for the parent. It’s usually because they don’t know much. Learn from #acutallyautistic people and buy my book on stimming on Amazon. It’s a great way to get started, if I do say so myself. 😉

A book for everyone who loves autistic people.

If you don’t know what stimming is, you probably don’t understand autism very much. 

If that’s the case, you need The Case of Sensational Stims.

It explains stimming so simply, even children understand how to support their friends with autism.

It’s on Amazon

When I learned my child was autistic, I was afraid. 

I was a first time parent and was already worried I’m screwing up. 

This news sent me over the edge. 

I couldn’t even explain what autism meant. I felt scared and helpless. 

Autism always seemed like something bad. That’s how it was presented to me. Words like “suspicious”, “symptoms”, and “red flags” were used to describe my child. 

I didn’t realize the impact of those words until years later. 

That’s when I wrote this book for you.

I don’t want any person to feel the way I felt.

I know now it wasn’t autism that was the problem. 

It was how much I didn’t know. 

It was how poorly autism was explained to me. 

Autism was always presented like some lurking, scary monster. It took personalities away. It could come without you ever knowing about it. It was something to be avoided at all costs.

My child was happy and thriving. He’s hilarious.

There’s no way it’s autism. 

But he responded unlike other kids his age. 

And his 17-month younger sister. 

It had nothing to do with my parenting. 

It seemed like no matter what I did, certain things were just different.

If it was very loud he had to get out of the room.

If there were a lot of unexpected changes he cried a lot.

If it was very hot he seemed to overheat.

If it was very cold he didn’t seem to care.

If he got hurt he never cried out. Even when it was clearly a bad fall. 

His language was different, but I could understand.

No matter what I did he would always run back and forth. He would flap his hands. He would squish himself beneath the cushions of the couch. 

Some nights he never slept.

Food was often difficult for him and not in a “picky toddler” way. It was like it hurt.

I was concerned and confused.

My child was amazing, but he was different

But when I learned about stimming, all of his behaviors began to make sense. 

I realized what his autism means for my family. 

I was no longer afraid! 

I also realized I stim quite a bit. Most of us do!

Stimming is a sign that a person is managing things like: noises, lights, food, changes in routines, learning exciting bits of information, having a big feeling, etc. 

A person stims with their body.

Stimming might look like: rocking, hand flapping, repeating a word, galloping, pacing, etc. Most people stim.

When we discover a stim’s purpose, we help people thrive. 

That’s what happened for us and it can happen for you too.

Sometimes you need to be a detective to understand a stim’s meaning. 

That’s why the book is called The Case of Sensational Stims

Joey and Elise teach what stimming is. This book will help you understand what stims are and why they’re important.

My child is amazing just the way he is. His autism is an important part of who he is. We don’t need to fear autism. We don’t need to overcome it. 

We embrace who he is entirely.  Including his autistic mind.

Understanding stimming allowed us to do that. 

You’re here because you want to support your autistic loved one. Maybe you don’t know where to start. This book is for you.

This book:

  • Explains autism in a children’s story
  • Models how to support disabled people
  • Includes a glossary of important terms
  • Will help you support the autistic person in your life
  • Is a great place to start learning

Buy it today!