Parenthood Post: Part 2 (Kate Altman, M.S.)



I just caught up on my TV viewing from last week, and felt that I ought to post about Parenthood again. In last week's episode, Adam and Christina are faced with the challenge of explaining to their son, Max, what Asperger's Syndrome is...and that he has it. Adam and Christina had chosen to not tell Max about his diagnosis, but when he overheard them talking about his AS (in a not-so-cheerful conversation), he confronted them and they had to explain.

Telling your child that he or she has an autism spectrum disorder is a daunting and confusing challenge, as the show did a nice job of conveying. First of all, ASDs are simply difficult to describe and define. How do you explain to a child what "pervasive developmental disorder" even means? Secondly, you must explain to a child that it is a lifelong condition with no "cure," but that he or she must work diligently in therapy/the autistic support classroom/PT/OT/social skills group in order "improve". Furthermore, you must somehow convey that having an ASD makes life more challenging in some ways (particularly social), but that it also includes positive features. On the show, Adam struggled with the latter. At first he saw focusing on the positive aspects of AS as "sugarcoating" the diagnosis. But after spending time with Max, he realized that the positive features of AS, like intense passions and an impressive memory for certain facts, are genuine.

Though Adam and Christina faltered at first, they ended up communicating with their son in a clear, direct, and supportive manner about his diagnosis and what it means to have an ASD.
What are your thoughts on disclosing the ASD diagnosis to a child?