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Explaining Learning Differences to Your Child

Explaining Intellectual Differences to Your Child
Many parents find it challenging to discuss a diagnosis of ASD, ADHD or ADD with their child. While having a frank conversation is usually necessary before implementing learning and communication strategies, your child may be sensitive to the idea of having a difference that still carries a stigma. Speak in terms your child can understand while attaching a label to the diagnosis only if you feel it is appropriate.

Start the Conversation Early

Parents often struggle with when to discuss a diagnosis, like ASD, with their child. Those who have entered adulthood with an ASD diagnosis often suggest starting early with kids, before they overhear something from other people. But since it can be difficult to know how much your child will understand or how his diagnosis will change with age, it's often best to focus on the unique way he exists in the world, using specific examples.

Talk About Diversity

Remind your child that everyone they know is different. People have their own individual qualities they bring into the world. For example, point out to your child with ASD that his sister may be a great musician while he is talented with facts and figures. He should get the message that they both contribute to the family's overall diversity.

Discuss How the Brain Works

Depending on the age of your child, she may not understand what her diagnosis means. Tell your child in descriptive terms how her brain works differently than those of other kids, using examples she can relate to. For example, if she has ADHD she may focus for shorter periods of time. Explain her difference does not mean she's incapable, just that she'll have to approach her work in a different way or attend a learning program for attention issues.

Emphasize the Community

Often it helps kids to understand they are not alone in their diagnosis, even if they don't know anyone with ASD, ADD or ADHD. If the child is in the space where she can openly discuss the specific diagnosis, identify famous individuals who also share her learning difference. If you are connected to other parents whose children have social or behavioral issues, consider making introductions.

Leave the Discussion Open

For most kids, coping with a learning difference is a lifelong endeavor. It is an added challenge to the already complex process of growing up. Your first conversation with your child about her diagnosis won't be the last, so encourage your child to ask questions or come to you with frustrations and bad days. Offering support and guidance can help your child to find her own success in all stages of life.
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