Update on Explaining Autism Diagnosis to your Child

About a week has passed since we explained to our son his Autism / Asperger’s diagnosis. I previously mentioned that he had been operating under a misapprehension that he was a bad person and that social skills group therapy was supposed to help him become a better person.

At dinner a few days ago, my special Apie son, declared, “Asperger’s is inside me. It won’t ever come out.” With that, I know that he has accepted who he is and his Autism. The books we purchased have done the trick! (See previous post for list of books). He seems settled, happier, and more confident since we told him about his diagnosis. He thinks of himself as a good person who needs a little extra help to fully realize his potential. I could not have hoped for any better outcome. Made me wonder if we should move to a more advanced social skills group.

We’ve been thinking of doing so since our social skills group therapist had suggested a few months ago that we consider moving our special Aspie to a new social skills group with slightly older members. May have mentioned that my wife and I, each have post-graduate training in scientific method. So, we began to collect data through observation and interview on which we could rely to make the best decision for our son. Concerns were two-fold: 1. our boy had made friends with others in his social skills group. That’s a YUGE deal for a person on the spectrum; 2. The new social skills group was composed of boys a year or two older. That age difference can matter exponentially more for developmentally challenged individuals. Data collection would assist our effort to resolve those concerns.

At social skills group therapy this week, I collected more interview data, by inquiring with the therapist concerning my son’s performance.  Our son has mastered the curriculum for this social skills group. Importantly, this does not mean that the effects of Autism on his social interactions or decision-making have been altered, changed, or eradicated. It means that social skills group has taught him skills to take a step back from what are, in the moment, his decision process and emotional response, critically assess, and make course corrections.

He was doing so well that, a few months ago, when our therapist reported to us on our son’s curriculum mastery, we opted to attend social skills group twice a month rather than once a week. We pay for this therapy out of pocket because our health insurance will not cover, and as poorly compensated educators the budget savings was too tempting to pass. We learned quickly that, as my economics professors would often say, there is no free lunch.

Sure we saved money, but we also paid in other ways: increase in meltdowns due to unexpected or sudden change in routine, sibling got treated poorly more often, behavioral problems arose at school. That scheduled lasted about six weeks before we went back to weekly participation. Our developmental pediatrician, when we reported on this experience, cautioned us that ASD /AS children need consistent, regular, and positive reinforcement of concepts and principles learned in social skills group therapy.

Since resuming weekly social skills group therapy, our special Aspie has reverted to more consistently applying what he learns in social skills group. We have always supported social skills group learning through incorporating concepts and methods into how we interact with him and his sibling. Rather than reacting with emotion to his emotion, becoming frustrated when he is not responding because he is hyper-focused, we remind him of social skills group concepts germane to what our son is experiencing. Many colossal meltdowns have been prevented as a result! Parents of ASD / AS children must be part of the therapeutic regimen for the intended and desired outcomes to occur.

With that background in mind, in response to my inquiry posed this week, the social skills group therapist noted that our son has assumed a quasi-leadership role. I was intrigued and concerned. ASD / AS people do not often make for the best leaders. Sensing my concern, our social skills group therapist described how our son is leading by example and offering to help other newer group members learn. I asked if, based on this new role, whether we should advance our boy. I had already made my decision, just wanted to know what the expert was thinking. The social skills group therapist said it was up to us, however, this new role presented a new challenge for our special Aspie and perhaps we should let him further develop in this role. I agreed.

In addition, a new member of the social skills group is a lad the same age as our Aspie. Both boys are rough and tumble and have, sadly, struggled to make friends. They hit it off the first session the new boy attended and have been peas in a pod ever since. The social skills group weekly meeting begins with a few minutes in the gym to get wiggles out and energy expended before getting to work, that is, learn through playing.

Once in the gym, our special Aspie and his new pal immediately go for those huge inflatable exercise balls, grab one, and run at each other as fast as possible before colliding, experiencing an equal and opposite reaction, while laughing with joy as they tumble in opposite directions to the gym floor. Our special Aspie made a friend! We’re keeping him in his current social skills group come hell or high water.

Yeah, a new stage has been entered. Our Aspie knows better who he is, has accepted it, has a more positive self-image as a result, values the therapies he is experiencing, and, did I mention he made a friend! Papa grizzly bear is stoked, feeling groovy, and just plain happy for my son. Love that little guy.

PS — my son, observing that I had completed this post, or nearly so, approached me to inquire if I want to to play a board game. In doing so, he reversed roles by using on me parent language we use with him. Language we learning in Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). Yep, I just got PCIT’d by my Aspie. Clever little bugger.

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5 thoughts on “Update on Explaining Autism Diagnosis to your Child

  1. Ugh…I WISH I had the same resources (group therapy, etc) that you do. My daughter has struggled with making any friends, and since she’s home-schooled online her choices are slim to none. The school was sending a speech therapist to meet with her once a week, but due to a series of events in January, that stopped. Hopefully, it will start back up in the fall.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. so sorry to learn of the difficulty you and your child are experiencing. we did not expect having to be the forceful advocate for our child to get the services government provides. being that advocate can be frustrating, mind boggling, and tiresome. To the extent this Aspie is capable, I empathize.

      One strategy we are trying is connecting with other parents with kids on the spectrum that have an interest meeting at the park or elsewhere, for kids to play. We’ve noticed that our son is more comfortable around others on the spectrum.

      as for the other services, we are fortunate to live in a large metro area where services are available, of a price. the therapies my son has received have been out of pocket expenses that have stretched our paltry educators’ income very thin. it’s why i teach extra courses whenever the opportunity arises. doing so keeps us more or less at break even.

      overall, small price to pay to invest in my son’s long term success and happiness. The parental dilemmas created Autism are such that one does the best they can. we had to make a choice between social skills or occupational therapy. We chose social skills therapy, its once a week, comprised of other spectrum kids, and is a safe place for him. we also hoped he would derive more long term benefit. Sending positivity your way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately (in this case, at least) I live in a small town. We had an autism school for a while, but they closed their doors around the time Nichole was diagnosed. We had a different school for all children with developmental handicaps, delays, or disabilities for many, many years, but budgets being the roller coasters that they are…that too closed down years ago. All these children were sent back to mainstream schools and the teachers were forced to attempt to work with them along side all the other children. THIS has been a joke. When Nichole was in 3rd grade, they would call me two or three times a week to come and get her because they just couldn’t handle her. This is why she’s home-schooled now, online. I find it increasingly difficult to interest her in joining outside activities, such as girl scouts, or karate classes, or even dance classes. She will just scream at me like I’m suggesting some sort of punishment, and demand that I just let her live her own life. Its a struggle, but always worth it. God bless your family!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am appalled at the state of education funding. The end of democracy nears much quicker with decreasing commitment to education – for all citizens. Indeed, without education, living the life of a free citizen in a democracy in accordance with reason, justice, and liberty is impossible. 2500 years of democracy has revealed that immutable fact.

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