Talking to Your Adolescent or Young Adult About Autism and Asperger’s
If you have talked about positivity and insight with your child (see blogs), you will have at least touched on the issue of strengths and weaknesses, some issues surrounding anxiety and negativity, and most likely also the topic of autism. It is positive, and it is necessary, to talk about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with your child. Young people who have not grown up with easy discussions and casual mention of their ASD, in our opinion, are more likely to feel anxious and negative about having this condition, and more frustrated in dealing with the issues that arise from ASD. And most importantly, your child has to grow into a young adult who can communicate about and manage their ASD independently and confidently. Your bright child with ASD may well been able to get through school with good grades with little mention or discussion of ASD. But developing the skills for meaningful employment and relationships after their education is finished will require that ASD is understood, accepted, discussed, and managed openly, with positivity about the challenges and a sense of partnership with loved ones.
Here are some tips to help you talk about ASD with your child:
Make sure your child knows he or she has a condition (ASD) that on the one hand helps make them even more unique and special, but also sometimes brings unique challenges--but you love them just like they are and you are there to help with the challenges!
Talk about strengths and weaknesses, and preferences: yours, theirs, everyone’s! Everyone has them, they are all different, and they are all acceptable. Talk about ASD as a factor influencing your child’s pattern of strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Be matter of fact about this. “Yeah that’s one of those ASD things. We can work with it, though.” “You sure can focus, that’s something that goes with ASD and it’s cool--but let’s make sure you get some healthy life balance and do some other things, too, OK?”
Positively frame ASD wherever you can, and celebrate positively handling it (patience, tact, eye contact, acknowledging others, self control, etc). ”I know that was tough for you and you just rocked it! Way to go!”
When ASD gets in the way or helps create a negative in your child’s life, talk about it, and strategize together. Maybe they get ahead of negative feelings next time and apply a coping skill before they get to a “4” on the intensity scale (see Coping blog). Maybe the two of you identify a weakness that you want to work on. Maybe you talk about intensity issues and ASD, and talk about dialing it back. Practice “blending in” (see blog)--notice others and “match” them to be more part of the group! Talk about and work with your child’s anxiety in the context of ASD (see anxiety blog).
Develop an understanding and partnership around ASD issues. “We need to work together, because ASD can make positivity and soft skills harder to get good at, but they’re really important, and I’m here to help you succeed.”
See our blogs on these and other ASD topics for ideas, as well as our books through Future Horizons: Autism and Employment: Raising Your Child with Foundational Skills for the Future, by Tew and Zajac, and 101 Positive Steps Toward Employment and Independence for Young Adults with Autism by Tew.