Perhaps your child has recently been evaluated and diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disability. Many parents struggle when attempting to decide whether or not to share the diagnosis with their child. Encouraging both disability awareness and self-advocacy is important for neurodiverse individuals, especially for children and adolescents. Previously, I wrote a blog about whether or not parents should tell their children about their disability. As a professional who serves many individuals with developmental disabilities, I believe that it is important to educate each individual about their unique needs to empower them. Instead of approaching the discussion by focusing on a label, try focusing on your child’s unique strengths and challenges. Let them know that by better understanding their unique needs, then we are able to find out the best way to support them. Often, when I am beginning an evaluation session with a child or adolescent, I explain to clients that I am a learning and emotions detective, and that it is my job to give information to their parents and teachers on how to help them both at home and at school.
Disability Awareness Print Resources
Be sure before you begin the conversation that you consider developmentally appropriate terms. I often recommend to parents that they read a book with younger children and adolescents about a character that faces similar challenges. There are several lists out there, but this particular list specifies the appropriate audience and the topic of the story. While reading the story, see if your child notices or comments about similarities since these can be opportune moments to make connections and help them to understand that there are others who have experienced similar challenges. This list was compiled by the co-director of the national consortium on developmental disabilities to provide students with an “insider’s view” of an individual’s experience from various perspectives.
Disability Awareness Digital Resources
There are also some great digital resources available such as video testimonials from celebrities who struggled with disabilities as a child to other special shows and series about individuals who are neurodiverse. Also, Understood.org offers unique simulation videos allowing parents to hear testimonials from children with various learning and attention challenges. In honor of autism awareness month, I would like to highlight Sesame Street’s contribution to promoting understanding and acceptance of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Their Communities resource pages offer resources for individuals, families, and providers.
Should these suggestions seem daunting, consider reaching out to a local psychologist who has experience in working with neurodiverse individuals. A qualified psychologist with experience working with children and adolescents should be able to consult and help you to develop a plan to best broach the topic. If the provider has recently evaluated your child, then consider requesting that they provide your child with an individualized child feedback session. For professionals, this psychologist has created a helpful list of visuals and videos that may be used to help jumpstart conversations with children and adolescents about their neurodiversity and unique needs.