How do I get my family members to accept my child's diagnosis?
by Neerja Anand
On 30 January, 2021
If your child has been recently diagnosed with being on the spectrum, it may be shocking and upsetting to you as a parent, to say the least. In this scenario, breaking the news to family members and extended family may prove to be a challenge. Though awareness about autism is on the rise, there are many myths and misinformation. Lack of knowledge is dangerous and stereotypes persist. To help you inform your loved ones about the diagnosis and the journey ahead, we have compiled some tips which may be of use to you during such engagement sessions.
Here are some ways to have a conversation with extended family members about your child’s autism spectrum disorder diagnosis:
Focus on the child’s behaviors. You can start the conversation by referring to the noticeable behaviors and actions of your child. For example, you can speak about the child avoiding eye contact, or unable to forge social connections. Let them know it has nothing to do with his being rude or shy; these are just characteristics of autism. Meltdowns can be explained as reactions to change which is very hard for most children with ASD.
Special Interests. Your child’s special interest may be a connecting point for your child with their extended family. Provide your family with a list of preferred topics or activities for your child so that they can prepare on how to interact with your child. In addition, if your child has a specific routine that they like to follow ensure that the routine is followed in the presence of the family so that your child can feel at ease when interacting with the extended family member.
Explain to them that like each person is unique in their own way, the same principle applies to every child diagnosed with autism. There are no set behaviors, patterns, or actions. Every person with ASD is different with respect to their areas of strengths and weaknesses. Some children lack vocal abilities but are able to communicate using signs or pictures and others are able to vocalize their needs and wants, but struggle with social interaction. Our interactions should be from a place of understanding and acceptance.
Be prepared for varied emotions. Family members and loved ones can express a wide range of emotions during and after the conversation. Sadness, acceptance, denial, or rejection being some of them. Let your loved ones express their feelings, doubts, and so on. However, let them know that their unconditional love & support is important for your family. Allow them time to process the diagnosis.
Professional help. You can ask a professional from your child’s team to assist you with the explanation of autism and tips for how your family can be supportive. This may make your task easier and convey details simpler.
Suggest educational resources for more awareness. Refer your loved ones to educational material available freely which includes tips for grandparents, siblings, and other extended family members. Education is the key to acceptance and support. Make full use of such material.