I know many parents of children on the spectrum that struggle over when they should tell their child that they have an ASD. I’ve never considered anything other than full disclosure at the earliest appropriate time. My motivation for this is simple: There’s a lot to gain from full disclosure and anything else has potential for harm.
I never want my boys to hear their parents talking about autism or asperger’s behind their back. I don’t want them to think that there is something so wrong with them that we can’t talk about it. They are both aware that they have difficulties; they experience them first hand every day. If we fail to talk about it, they’ll likely think that “something is wrong with me” rather than “I am different, and that’s OK.”
I want them to feel that autism / asperger’s / pdd is part of who they are and that we can talk about it as easily as we talk about any other aspect of our lives. I want it to be a topic that has no more emotional baggage than talking about school or the weather.
I want knowledge of autism to be part of the basis upon which they learn to know themselves as they grow to adults. I want them to recognize their strenghts and be willing to learn and be coached in the areas that they need it.
Of course, it’s necessary to tailor the disclosure to their ability to understand. It varies with each child and it varies with their age. I’ll continue to add information as they are capable of processing it. The objective is not to have a one time conversation that results in their knowing that they are autistic. Instead, the goal is to foster a continual dialogue over a long period of time. Like all aspects of raising children, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.