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A Guide for Parents on Discussing Autism and ADHD Diagnoses with Your Child.

When parents receive the diagnosis that their child is autistic or has ADHD, many parents asked me "How do I tell my child about their diagnosis?" As a child psychologist, on this blog I am going to provide guidance and insights based on my experience offering feedback and consultation to parents soon after a diagnosis. Parenting a neurodivergent child can be a unique and rewarding journey. It is essential to provide your child with the tools they need to understand their own neurodiversity, promote self-advocacy, self-compassion, and nurture their self-esteem. In this guide, we will discuss how and what to tell your child about their autism or ADHD diagnosis, focusing on creating opportunities for growth and development, fostering self-advocacy, demonstrating basic respect, promoting self-compassion, and being non-judgmental.

1. Creating Opportunities for Understanding

One of the first steps in discussing a neurodiversity diagnosis with your child is to create opportunities for them to understand what it means. Use age-appropriate language and resources, such as books, videos, or stories, to help them grasp the concept. For example, you can say, "Just like some people wear glasses to see better, some people have unique ways of thinking, like you do. We call it autism or ADHD, and it's a part of what makes you amazing."

2. Emphasize Self-Advocacy

Teach your child that knowing and understanding their diagnosis empowers them to advocate for themselves. Encourage open communication and help them find ways to express their needs. For instance, "If you ever find a situation challenging, you can tell us, and we'll work together to make it easier for you."

3. Show Basic Respect

Respect is the foundation of any healthy discussion about neurodiversity. Let your child know that their diagnosis doesn't change how you view or love them. Share stories about famous individuals who are neurodivergent to emphasize that neurodiversity is part of the beautiful tapestry of humanity.

4. Foster Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is crucial for neurodivergent children. Share with your child that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that's what makes us unique. Encourage them to be kind to themselves when they face challenges. For example, "It's okay to make mistakes; that's how we learn and grow."

5. Be Non-Judgmental

Create an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their feelings about their diagnosis. Avoid judgment or negativity. When they share their thoughts, acknowledge their emotions and reassure them that you're there to support them.

6. Let It Be a Continual Conversation

Discussing neurodiversity is not a one-time event. Keep the conversation open and revisit it as your child grows and gains new insights. "We can talk about this whenever you want, and we'll learn together."

7. Validate & Encourage Questions

Invite your child to ask questions. Be prepared to answer honestly and age-appropriately. If you don't know the answer, explore it together. This demonstrates that you value their curiosity and that there's always something new to learn. However, don’t expect any particular response. Some children will ask a lot of questions, while others will be quite. Some will be relived, while others might be concerned. No matter how your child responds, let them know that it is okay!!

Discussing autism or/and ADHD diagnoses with your child is a significant step in their personal development journey. By creating opportunities for understanding, fostering self-advocacy, showing basic respect, promoting self-compassion, and maintaining a non-judgmental approach, you'll provide them with the love and support they need to thrive as unique individuals. When discussing the diagnosis, choose the right moment and let the conversation flow naturally. Be honest, calm, and confident in your approach. Address your child's questions and concerns, highlighting their strengths and celebrating their unique qualities. Normalize the diagnosis by sharing stories of successful neurodivergent individuals and validate whatever response your child has. Remember that it's an ongoing process, and you are their biggest ally on this remarkable journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.

By Child Psychologist,

Ms. Azureen

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