When and How Should I Inform My Child of their Diagnosis

Jun 19, 2019

by Dr Wesley Turner, Clinical Psychologist at Minds & Hearts

A common question that crops up in our work of assisting children with neurodiverse presentations, often asked by parents and guardians, is when and how a child should be informed of their diagnosis.

Caution should be had when informing children and adolescents, particularly those on the Autism Spectrum, without first gauging their level of self-concept, anxiety and level of negative thinking.

Many children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, can struggle with an underdeveloped sense of self identify, low self-esteem, anxiety and/or depression. As a result, the notion of being “on the spectrum” can often add further distress.  When the message is communicated in a positive, strength-focused way it is, however, typically an enlightening message that helps rewrite the child’s understanding of themselves and their role within the world.

If they feel comfortable doing so, parents may wish to watch the resources like the following videos with their children and see how they react and/or relate to the people featured in them. Parents can use resources such as these, as a launching pad to discuss how their children think and act, and the personal strengths they bring to their lives.

If a parent or guardian is concerned about how a children may react, or of the impact it may have on a child’s mood and self-esteem, we recommend that the child is informed of their diagnosis during a session with a clinician experienced with ASD.

Information on autism:

An episode of ‘Arthur’ dedicated to educating children on Asperger’s syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder:

A TEDx talk by Krister Palo, a 15-year-old student with Asperger’s syndrome:

At Minds & Hearts, we also provide a list of suggested books and other resources that parents may wish to utilise with younger or adolescent children. This list is available here in our Resources to Help.