To tell or not tell your child or others of their diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s really a personal decision that has pros and cons on either side. Some parents may struggle with telling a 3 year old they have Asperger’s Syndrome, fearing they may not understand; that it could frighten them.
While saying directly “The doctor says you have Asperger’s Syndrome, ” may be unnecessary, talking about the characteristics of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in a way the child can relate to is vital in helping the child towards self-acceptance as they mature.
Being open about your child’s different way of thinking and processing, and connecting those traits to Asperger’s Syndrome characteristics is the key to success in helping your child towards self-acceptance. The earlier they become comfortable with Asperger’s Syndrome ‘shop-talk’ the easier it will be when they are pre-teen and adolescent age. Children with Asperger’s Syndrome need to be able to focus on their strengths more than ever at this age when their social-skill deficits can seem more prominent.
Remembering though that people on the Autistic Spectrum do not always ‘connect the dots’ in the correct order, it may be necessary at some point to say “You have Asperger’s Syndrome” for clarification.
So should you tell your child’s part-time employer about Asperger’s Syndrome…and if so, when? When they are applying for a job? When they get the job? Or never?
This also comes down to personal choice. However, sometimes it can be helpful to have an employers support contributing to the success of your child’s employment experience.
Our son doesn’t like to mention it when he’s applying for a position or when he initially begins work. He doesn’t want it to influence the employers’ decision to hire him, one way or another. Then he doesn’t like to tell them of his Asperger’s Syndrome too soon, because he doesn’t want to “freak them out”. But ultimately he likes to tell them of his diagnosis, and explain to them what that means, because he feels like he’s hiding a secret if he doesn’t. As he says, “It’s a part of me, and they can’t know who I really am unless they know of my AS. ” (Sometimes I swear he’s a 44 year old inside a 14 year olds body!)
So far we’ve been very fortunate in the employer’s who have given our son a job. They’ve been very understanding, and have helped by finding out about Asperger’s Syndrome, and matching the strengths of Asperger’s Symdrome with the duties/tasks assigned to him. They’ve praised his work ethic, his efficiency, his enthusiasm and manners. They’ve been understanding and compassionate when his anxiety or depression has caused him to miss work, and not held it against him the next time he’s there. Just as someone may miss work due to asthma, or the flu they understand that depression/anxiety is part of Asperger’s Syndrome.
The members of our family have reached the stage where telling about Asperger’s Syndrome is just like saying “my eyes are blue” – a comment that helps the listener come to know you (or your son or brother) a little better. After all, life is a never-ending quest to make connections with others, whether fleeting or lasting!
Nelle Frances is the mother of a 15 year old with Asperger's Syndrome, a Special Needs Educator and Author of the Ben and His Helmet series of books for Asperger children. She is also an active member of 5 Asperger's Syndrome Support and Advocacy Groups. For more information and Support Strategies visit http://www.nellefrances.com