How Do I Tell Him He’s Different?

autism different

During the autism workshop that we attended a few weeks ago, they talked a bit about when and how to go about telling children that they have autism.

To be honest it wasn’t something I’d really thought about before as we’d been so focused on just getting the diagnosis and thinking about how it would effect him throughout his life, that it just didn’t occur to me that at some point I’d have to have that conversation with him.

Max is becoming more and more aware of his own behaviour and how it compares to other children’s behaviour. But having said that, he is only five and I really feel like he is too young to properly understand. I just know that if I tried to tell him now it would be met with a barrage of questions, I mean I know all five year old’s ask questions but Max takes it to a whole new level!

I also worry that he might play on it, I can just imagine him blaming his behaviour on his ASD, when sometimes he’s actually just being a normal five year old who is pushing the boundaries.

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So if not now, when do I tell him? I’d thought about waiting until he starts to notice his differences himself and then try to explain to him why he is different. But as I previously mentioned, I think he already is noticing, the other day he said to me “None of my friends ever pick me because they don’t like it when I get angry all the time”. He definitely sees that he gets frustrated more than other children.

And how do I tell him? Autism is so complex, and is different for everyone so it’s hard to explain exactly what it is, especially to a child. At the workshop they mentioned a few useful resources including The Big A – Me, Myself & Autism, which is a work booklet about autism. I really like the idea of this, but the recommended age is seven so he probably wouldn’t understand this just yet.

I’ve also done a bit of my own research and have found loads of books on Amazon that help children to understand autism spectrum disorders, a lot of these books get brilliant reviews so I think this is the route that I will go down. I think the words in the book will help him to understand better than I could explain it.

There are also some great videos on YouTube such as this one:

I have found that there are also books for siblings, one I particularly like the look of is My Brother is Different, because not only do we have to explain this to Max but we have to explain it to Evie too. I sometimes think it is more important to try and explain it to Evie because I want her to understand why Max behaves like he does sometimes and that she shouldn’t copy some of the things that he does.

I think for now I’m leaning towards waiting a while. Maybe in a year or so when I feel like he could grasp it a little better, then I’ll gradually start introducing the subject of autism to him. But it is really reassuring to know that there are some great resources out there for when the time comes.

Does anyone have any experience with this? What did/would you do? I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading.


64 Comments

  1. July 30, 2016 / 10:00 am

    I think you are going about it the right way. He’s still young and if the books and resources are aimed at slightly older children then it’s probably better to wait. You know your child best and instincts are always best in these situations. We have just had our 10 year old diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit- completely different I know but still explains behaviour and learning difficulties. Explaining it to her and her younger siblings has been relatively easy as she’s older. We’ve based our explanations on the fact that her brain is ‘wired differently’ and that she just learns in a different way which can sometimes be frustrating. Good luck! Xx fortheloveofBLOG

    • July 30, 2016 / 9:50 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think I will leave it too much longer, just a year or so but I just don’t think the understanding is there yet x

  2. July 30, 2016 / 10:03 pm

    Hmm, tricky ey. My friend told her daughter when she was 5 (she’s a bright mature 5 year old) and it went down ok. I think you’re in for a patch of ‘light reading’ 😉 The books help a lot I think, my daughter has asperges and I found it so useful just reading so many different perspectives – and eventually finding solutions that would work for us. #KCACOLS

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:46 pm

      I think the books will be great for him. Thanks for reading x

  3. July 30, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    My son has just been diagnosed – he is 6. I’ve no idea when or what to tell him, although like your son I think he is aware that he sometimes reacts differently and often says things like ‘I can’t control my brain’ I think maybe a little conversation about how he sometimes processes things differently to others might be helpful in near future . I will check out the links you posted . Thanks for sharing your experience . #kcacols

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:52 pm

      Good to know there are other out there going through the same thing. x

  4. July 31, 2016 / 1:34 am

    What a challenging situation. Unfortunately I don’t have any advice but it looks like you have found some age appropriate resources that might be helpful. All the best! #kcacols

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:50 pm

      Thanks for reading x

  5. July 31, 2016 / 6:36 am

    Stories can be a wonderful way to discuss more difficult subjects. Sounds like a good approach. Completely different, but my son has an eye condition and I give a lot of thought to how to explain to him that he can’t see as well as others and help him understand his difference without making him feel like he is limited in any way. It is a difficult thing to know how to approach! But I find it helpful to have my dad )who has the same condition as him) as a role model for him – do you know any older children with Autism who might be able to act as a role model for your boy?
    x Alice
    #kcacols

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:49 pm

      I don’t actually know anyone older with autism which is a shame because that would have been a great approach. Thanks for reading xx

  6. July 31, 2016 / 7:09 am

    This is a really tricky one Hun, and I can imagine that the decision has been playing over and over in your mind. It’s great that these days there are so many resources and support groups you can attend. The most important thing is that the time is right for you and your family. Claire x #KCACOLS

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:47 pm

      Yes it is great that there are so many resources out there. Thanks for commenting x

  7. There's always time for tea
    July 31, 2016 / 9:01 am

    It is a tricky one! We told our son that he had it a few months back, and there have been quite a few occasions where he had played on it and blamed things that he does on Autism. But I still stick to I’d rather tell him when he’s young, and we have a bit of a wobble now, but grows up accepting it, than tell him when he is older and his hormones are all over the place and it is harder for him to accept! Good luck, you will know when the right time is for you all. xx #Picknmix

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:43 pm

      You are right, better to do it now than when they are older. I still think I’ll hold off for a little while, I know he will change a lot over the next few months/year and then hopefully be able to understand it all a little better x

  8. July 31, 2016 / 12:34 pm

    I don’t have any experience, or advice to offer, but I think that if it were my son (he’s 5 too), I would maybe wait a little bit, and be led by him, maybe gradually start talking about it as he starts to comment and ask questions about it all. And I think that reading books together about the subject is a great idea. x #KCACOLS

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:40 pm

      It’s reassuring that people are agreeing with what I was thinking. Thanks for commenting x

  9. July 31, 2016 / 2:36 pm

    You are doing the right thing straight away by addressing it and not just making a rash decision to tell him, which could make him a bit more confused. I would definitely explore the options and maybe wait a little and observe him a little more. I think the book is a lovely idea, I was given a book about cancer as a child to help me understand my mothers illness. It was a tremendous help and I would definitely recommend something like that. But I don’t have any experience in regard to this but you are doing great, and Max sounds like a delightful little boy #KCACOLS

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:37 pm

      Thank you, I do think books will be a really great help for him x

  10. July 31, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    It’s such a hard thing to explain and it’s always going to be difficult no matter when you choose to do it. I like the book idea. This is also something I have looked into for using with my kids to explain J’s autism. There are so many different ones and lots of them get great reviews. I’m in the process of narrowing it down to choose a few. Hope you find something that helps and would love to hear how it works. #KCACOLS

    • July 31, 2016 / 9:37 pm

      Thank you x

  11. July 31, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    I don’t envy you having to have this discussions – and the reality is you’ll likely continue to have them for the rest of his life. Does he respond well to books? Maybe a book might explain it well and to a level of detail that is enough for him at 5, while at the same time overwhelming him. You know him best, I’m sure you’ll make the right decision #KCACOLS

    • August 1, 2016 / 10:45 am

      He does respond quite well to books yeah so I think that is the way to go. Thanks so much for reading x

  12. August 1, 2016 / 8:01 am

    Our eldest son was diagnosed when he was four. We told him when he was seven, it was time. He knew he was different and it was beginning to upset him and we thought he would understand. We about to go on holiday too when I knew we would mention it to attractions etc and he was beginning to be involved in conversations with medical professional so it made sense. We told him about his ADHD at the same time. We used a social story. He had a couple of questions but it went very well. I’ll put it on our blog. Chris from autistic not weird website/blog has a really good article on it.

    Here is how we knew-http://www.rainbowsaretoobeautiful.com/2016/03/its-time-to-tell-hes-autistic.html?m=1

    Here is how we knew he was good with it all-http://www.rainbowsaretoobeautiful.com/2016/05/joy-of-autism-acceptance.html?m=0

    If you are interested, email me and I’ll send you a copy of the social story we created for our lad.

    Our younger son is five but isn’t ready at all, won’t understand.

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:46 pm

      Thanks hun, I’ll check out your links 🙂 x

  13. August 1, 2016 / 10:40 am

    This is tricky. I am not sure what I would do but i think you know your child best and would know best when to approach the subject as children mature at different rates. Stories would definitely be a good way for exploring different things. Autism is indeed complex and I know even as adults, it is hard for me to comprehend the full picture. I would say to take the cue from your child. Thanks for linking with #bigpinklink

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  14. August 1, 2016 / 11:28 am

    Oh that’s such a tough decision to have to make. You certainly sound like you’re giving it lots of thought and will no doubt find the right time for him and you. I wish you all, all the best. Thanks so much for linking at #KCACOLS. Hope you can come back again next Sunday xx

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:48 pm

      Thank you and thanks for reading x

  15. Kim (sisterkin)
    August 1, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    Gosh, this is tough! I think you are right, he is still only little. Maybe when he gets older he will recognise he behaves differently from other children and will need an explanation. I did read somewhere that it can be easier if children with autism read their diagnosis as they can process written material better than the spoken word and it can confuse them if the people telling them are emotional. Perhaps that is something to think about. Good luck on your journey x #MarvMondays

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:50 pm

      Thank you x

  16. August 1, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    You know your son. Trust your mama instincts. Good luck. I’m sure it will work out as you clearly love and support your son #marvmondays

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Thank you and thanks for reading x

  17. August 1, 2016 / 8:40 pm

    This is tricky and I really don’t know what I would do. I do know that every child is different though and that you and only you know your child better than anyone. you will know when the time is right. Good luck. I loved the video by the way. Pen x #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:30 pm

      Thanks and thank you for reading x

  18. August 1, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    I sort of see where you are coming from (not autism related but my little boy has a genetic condition which makes him a little different) – you do not want it to be a big deal, you don’t want to highlight he is different but you want to tackle the conversation sooner rather than later. I think you just have to follow your instincts as you know him best. Best of luck and he looks a little cutie 🙂 #KCACOLS

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Thank you 🙂 and thanks for reading x

  19. August 2, 2016 / 6:35 am

    Hi Emma. I don’t have any experience in this situation but I think it’s great to know there are so many more resources around now to help parents understand the condition more and also how to communicate with their kids about it. I’d never really considered all of the extra things that come along with having a child with autism…Such as talking to them about why they are different. I’m glad he has a mum like you who is seeking information on how to make things a smoother ride for him and help him on his journey. Lovely picture of him with his medal!
    #Marvmondays

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:42 pm

      Thank you and thanks for reading 🙂 x

  20. August 2, 2016 / 7:16 am

    This is a tricky one, it’s not something I have any real experience with or even thought about before, so I do feel for you. The great thing is that there seems to be a lot of support and advice out there. I’d go with what feels right for you and your family. #BigPinkLink X

    • August 2, 2016 / 7:41 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  21. August 2, 2016 / 10:04 pm

    This must be a difficult decision. I’m sorry I have no experience to offer either, but just wanted to try and offer reassurance – I’m sure you’re right to trust your instincts on this as you know your child better than anyone, and I’m sure you’ll know when the time is right to gently introduce the subject. I guess it’s a balance between not wanting to wait for too long before telling him, but feeling sure that he’s ready and can handle it. As others have said, stories are often a really effective way to do this, especially if he responds well to books. And if he’s already talking about being ‘different’, well, I guess we’re all different in various ways, if that helps to reassure him at all. Wish you all the best with it all. #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:22 pm

      Thank you and thanks for reading x

  22. August 3, 2016 / 2:06 am

    I think you are in an overwhelmingly difficult spot. We never wish any hardships on our children. I unfortunately don’t have any advice on this area. I do however want to say that your son is not “different”, he is a beautiful little soul that you have been blessed with. He sees the world in a unique way. We all have differences and there shouldn’t be a negative connotation attached. Wishing you all the best! x #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:22 pm

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  23. August 3, 2016 / 6:57 am

    This is definitely a difficult one. I don’t have any advice but I really so think you’re going in the right direction with the resources you’ve found. It can’t be easy explaining this to him #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:21 pm

      Thanks for reading x

  24. August 3, 2016 / 11:13 am

    I don’t have any experience with this no and I can see how tough it must be :/ It sounds like the idea of using stories and books would be beneficial – I know that helps us explain things like the dentist and potty training etc. good luck Emma xx
    thanks for linking with #fortheloveofblog ! Hope you enjoyed it and can join this weekend!

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:21 pm

      Thanks for reading x

  25. August 3, 2016 / 3:16 pm

    I have no real experience of autism, but to me it sounds like you are right to wait. I think like most things parenting concerned, you will just know when the time is right for you and him. Trust your instincts hon x

    Thanks for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:20 pm

      Thanks for reading x

  26. August 3, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    Firstly I think it’s great that you’ve taken the time to research it and armed yourself with resources to show your children when the time comes. There’s a number of people who blog about autism on the internet and can offer support. #MarvMondays

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:19 pm

      Thank you for reading x

  27. August 4, 2016 / 1:25 am

    I remember that video, it really explained it well. That said, I think you should follow your instincts. You know him best what works for you, what works best, Only you really know. BTW he is just so cute!! #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:18 pm

      Ah thank you and thanks for reading x

  28. August 4, 2016 / 7:59 am

    I have no experience of autism but it sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing and getting all the information ready. He is still young to fully understand it but as you say, it’s the little things picked up along the way that he wants to know the answers to. You’re doing fantastic lovely xx #bigpinklink

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:16 pm

      Thank you, and thanks for reading x

  29. August 4, 2016 / 12:12 pm

    I have no experience with autism but my instinct would be to introduce some stories that have characters in who are autistic (rather than books explicitly about autism) as you might find Max relates to those characters and it could help him start to understand (without knowing the specific terms and medical stuff) and make sense of his own feelings and actions. Like I’ve said this is completely uneducated suggestion so go with what feels right for you and Max. #KCACOLS

    • August 5, 2016 / 12:15 pm

      Thanks for reading xx

  30. August 5, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    Sounds like you’re going the right way but sounds like a difficult situation lovely.
    I have no experience with autism, so I am not quite sure what to say or any advice 🙁
    #MarvMondays

    • August 5, 2016 / 10:09 pm

      Thanks for reading x

  31. August 7, 2016 / 12:36 am

    I cant imagine anything more difficult, but I think you’ll know when the time is right to tell your little one. You are his mum and know him better than he probably knows himself, so you’ll know when he can grasp what you are telling him and be able to cope with knowing it. Its great that there are so many resources out there that can help parents talk to their children about it, I thought the little video was great. Really simply and well explained, but actually quite informative, even for an adult like myself. Lovely post, thank you for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

    • August 7, 2016 / 9:25 am

      Thanks for reading Emily x

  32. September 5, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    I don’t any experience in this situation, but I think you spend time with him so much, play together, learn how to communicate with him, read book or watch video about autism spectrum disorders together. I hope everrything nice. Thanks for sharing.

  33. November 3, 2017 / 11:16 am

    Morning Emma

    My son is now 10 and has high functioning ASD. His father (my ex husband) took it upon himself to tell our son totally out of the blue that he has Autism. That was three years ago – not long after diagnosis. I probably can’t say what I actually said at the time without offending but needless to say he is my ex for a bloody good reason. All I can say is that like any child with ASD or not parenting is a rollercoaster and you just got to ride it. You will know when the time is right. Hang in there x PS your little man is gorgeous x

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