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Worth Repeating: When Should You Tell a Child They Have Asperger's? - featured April 20, 2011

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Editor's Note: This article was written for parents but we share it with you because it may be something you would want to share with the parents of your kiddos

When Should You Tell a Child They Have Asperger's?

By: John Robison

[Source: John Robison's Blog on the Huffington Post]

Parents often ask me when they should talk to their kids about Asperger's or autism. I don't think there is a hard and fast answer, but in my opinion, the time to discuss brain differences is when the teen years are close. Before then, most kids won't be able to grasp the idea of why and how their brain is different from other people's. Any attempt to "label" them runs the risk of being counterproductive and damaging to their vulnerable self-esteem.

So what should a parent say to a young child with Asperger's? And how can they guide their child through the difficult early years in a way that most helps them grow into a happy, productive adult? Here are a few tips derived from my own life as a free-range Aspergian and my experience raising my son Cubby, who's now a fine young adult Aspergian himself.

1) In the early years, the most important task is developing communication skills.

In today's interconnected world, the ability to communicate effectively is the most important skill you can give a child, after he masters the basics of hygiene and behavior. Study after study has shown that kids with autism who receive intensive therapy -- 20 to 40 hours per week -- have far better outcomes as adults as compared to kids who are left to develop on their own. There are many cases of five-year-olds who could barely hold a conversation developing fully normal speech as adults, thanks to early intervention. There seems to be a critical window of time prior to age 10 during which kids can pick up these vital skills far more easily. If the window of opportunity is missed, the result may be lifelong communication impairment and significant disability. Some kids with autism prefer to relate through speech, while others choose written communication. Ideally, you'll help your child build his strength in both areas.

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Tags: Article Aspergers Syndrome Newsletter 22 April 2011