If you have a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism, it can be a challenge telling your parents and extended family the news. Autism is something that more and more people are aware of, but there’s still a lot of misinformation. While you can provide them with autism resources online for them to educate themselves, it can still be a difficult and emotional conversation to have. We’ve got some tips to help you along the way.

  • Focus on behaviors that they may have noticed previously. This is a great way to start explaining what autism is and why your child was diagnosed.
  • Explain the basics of autism and let them know that the behaviors associated with it are divided into two groups:
    • Difficulty with social skills
    • Restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests
  • You may want to cover these things if they ask what causes autism:
    • Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability
    • It is lifelong
    • We know it starts in utero
    • We know it is not produced by vaccines
    • It’s not caused by bad parenting
  • It’s possible that your child doesn’t fit their image of autism and that’s okay. Explain that autism is a spectrum of behaviors, and every autistic person is different in terms of onset, severity, and types of symptoms.
  • Remember to focus on the positive things like how the diagnosis will help your child. People often worry that having a diagnosis will negatively “label” a child, making people think she’s weird and hurting her opportunities and her self-esteem. In fact the opposite is often true. It can be a relief to know that a child’s struggles (and strengths) have a name and are actually pretty well understood and not that unusual.

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