How to Explain Autism to Kids

How do you explain a complex concept to your child? You likely start by finding out what your child knows, or what the child thinks they know. When your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is best to explain it to them. Most importantly, because this is an opportunity to explain this to them correctly and to be sure they don’t get the wrong information from someone or somewhere else. Regardless of what risks you may think you may be opening them to – fear of teasing, bullying, or a fear of your child feeling different, you are not. With or without an ASD diagnosis, your child will still run the risks of these unfortunate things happening to them. What is important is your child understanding themselves and what makes them unique. You may be surprised to hear that the most common experience autistic people have reported upon finding out their diagnosis is immediate relief.

Making the Decision

As you may have guessed it might not be the easiest thing, especially if you are just learning about autism yourself. Therefore, keep in mind, you can explain it as you learn about it starting with the basics you already know and sharing more as you learn more. If you are unsure whether it is important to explain autism to your child, we can assure you it is important to be the one to explain autism to them. Rather than having your child hear about it from someone else first. You child may already feel they are different from their peers. Sharing the diagnosis and explaining what autism is to them can help them understand there is no fault involved.

How to Explain Autism- Use Metaphors, Pictures and Analogies

Use the internet and research to help you find the best ways to explain autism to your child. Your child is unique and will also have autism that is different from others with autism. Use metaphors, or analogies, and pictures if you know your child will find this helpful. One mom has explained using the hairdryer brain vs toaster brain explanation. Basically, if you liken the brain to electrical wires that for most make a toaster then most people’s brains would be a toaster. They make a different types of toast, white, wheat, whole grain, rye, Asiago cheese and so forth. She goes on to explain that some of us may always make burnt toast or only toast bagels. However, all of our brains can do the same thing, which is make toast.  She then explains while some people’s brain wires make a toaster, those with autism have a total different machine, instead of a toaster they might be a hairdryer. She goes on to explain that there is nothing wrong with a hair dryer and all of the things it can do. But that our world is designed for those of us who have toaster brains and can make toast. This is where it gets really interesting. If you choose to use an analogy or metaphor, you will likely peak the interest of your child – getting them to think creatively and in a positive manner about themselves and autism. Now all you need to do is decide what sort of explanation you want to use.

Explaining Therapy

You can continue explaining autism by explaining therapies and behavior therapy to your child as you get ready to ease them into therapy. As you get to know our curriculum and therapy, it will become easier to explain these to your child. If you need help, seek out ABC Consulting for support in the process – we are happy to help!