Yesterday at Bearhug's IEP meeting his ASD teacher asked us if we had talked to the boys about their autism.
I'll give you my thoughts on it and how we've approached with Cuddlebug and Bearhug (obviously haven't crossed that bridge yet with Little Bitty), but I'm really curious to hear what other parents think and how you've handled this with your own children. I just want to say up front too, I don't think there's any right or wrong way to handle this, and my guess is it's something that we'll be evolving over time.
We've never had an official "autism" discussion with our boys. We've had some talks with them about how their brains work a little differently than some other people's brains. We've talked about how there are some things that are hard for them (they already knew that) that are easy for other people, but there are some things that are easy for them that are hard for other people. Basically, we've framed it as everyone has their challenges and everyone has their talents, and you need to just do the best you can to work on your challenges and take advantage of your talents. Sometimes you will need a little help from other people, and sometimes you will be able to help other people. It's like that for everyone, just in different ways. We haven't really focused on terminology or put a name to it.
Apparently, there are some in the school district who believe that kids with autism should be taught to advocate for themselves. I agree with that, I guess we just take a different approach. When they are a little older, we will talk more about autism specifically and teach them how to share information about autism with others. We'll certainly be there to answer questions as they have them. But for now, we really just want them to be able to just be kids and not have to be "advocates" at such a young age.
We've tried to give them terminology that is more accessible for the average person. They can explain to someone, "I'm having a hard day" or "I need a break." Most people can relate to that in their own way. From the time they were little, we referred to therapy as "school" and their therapists as "teachers." There's obviously nothing wrong with going to therapy, but we wanted it to be something that seemed familiar, and they'd seen plenty of cartoons about "school." Also, once they got to a point of being able to talk to other kids about their day, we wanted it to be in terms that the other kids could relate to.
It's not like it's a secret, we talk about autism at home and it's not a big deal. We just haven't made a point of having a specific discussion about it. They've had enough challenges with things like stimming and communication difficulties that present obstacles to social interactions, we didn't want to add terminology that would be unfamiliar to most people to the mix.
So, that's what we've done so far. I know some people talk more specificially about autism with their kids sooner, and I think there are some benefits to that too.
If you did, how did it go? What did you tell your child, and how did they respond?
If you're an adult on the spectrum, how did your family handle this? Do you agree or disagree with their approach? Do you have any advice for parents?
If you're a teacher or therapist, how have some of the families you've worked with handled this? What are your thoughts on it?