Accentuate the Positive

All aspiewomen were once aspiegirls. And many adults on the spectrum have had children on the spectrum. And then of course, some neurotypical parents have autistic children. Even so, when it comes to parents explaining to a girl child, maybe even a teen girl, that she is on the spectrum, families can feel at a loss for what to say! While I didn’t receive a diagnosis until after college, and a doctor is the one who told me the news, I can imagine what this experience might feel like for a teen girl. We would want to hear the news from a positive perspective, not a deficit perspective. Once we’re out of elementary school (and often when we’re still in it), autistic girls know that there’s something special about us. We know that other people have started to reject us. We begin to fear our difference.

So, instead of a parent starting the conversation by saying, “You know how you struggle…”, a parent might say, “You know how you’re so great with patterns, how much you love (special interest) more than anything else in the world, and how you are such a great reader/writer/mathematician/etc.? Well, the doctor we went to told us that many of your gifts come from the fact that you have autism spectrum disorder.” Once that news sinks in, it can be time to start discussing the challenges. I believe this way of sharing a child’s diagnosis with him or her is important, because it may help the child’s self-confidence and self-worth later on.

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