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How do I get my family to understand my child’s autism diagnosis?
May 16th, 2016

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Hearing that your child has been diagnosed with autism can result in a wide variety of emotions and concerns.  It is important to realize and understand that your family and friends may also experience those same emotions.  Allowing your family and friends to be part your child’s journey can allow for you all to collaborate and become a strong support system.  In order to help your family to be effective in your support system, here are several techniques to teach them and help them accept.

Give information about autism.

Keep it simple and stick to the basics.  Tell them only what you think they need to know when giving relatives and friends resources and information about autism.  It is recommended to skip the extensive details. 

In Olga Bogdashina’s (2005) book “A View from the Bridge”, she describes four areas that can assist in explaining autism to others.

  1.  Communication: When it comes to communicating, people with autism tend to experience processing delays making it more challenging for them to transfer, articulate and deliver language.
  2. The need for consistency and routine:  It is important to emphasize the increase in distress that can occur for people with autism when things are unexpected or when changes in a routine can arise.  Using a foreshadow technique can be a helpful strategy to use if there may be any significant schedule changes.
  3. Social interaction: Most people can pick up on simple social interaction skills without even noticing, whereas most people with autism tend to lack the ability to pick up on these social interactions, such as lack of eye contact.
  4. Sensory processing problems: Strong sensitivity to noises and specific sounds is one example of the range of sensory processing alterations and complications that people with autism encounter.  They may encounter difficulties with their sense of balance or body awareness.

Anna Tullemans also has a book called “Talking to friends and family about the diagnosis” (#2599) that provides tips in explaining an autism diagnosis to family and friends.

Provide your friends and family with a basic list of resources and information.

  • Providing these resources allows for them to research information at their own pace and by their own interest.  It is likely that your relatives will come back to you notifying you of “causes” and/or “cures” they have researched.  It might be more helpful to notify them ahead of time to not do so.
  • Find a way to teach your friends and family the crucial skills and techniques to help care for your child.
  • One way family and friends can help with this is to maintain the routines and schedules that you use.  Remind them to be patient and that if your child is engaging in any challenging behaviors that there is more than likely a legitimate reason why, such as having difficulty explaining what is bothering them.

The main goal for your child should be to focus on their special abilities, not what they aren’t capable of doing.  Along with this understanding, the support of family and friends and undergoing appropriate services, people with autism can live fulfilling, healthy and happy lives.

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