Should Parents Tell Their Kids About Their Disability?
Often, I have parents ask whether or not they should tell their child about their recently diagnosed disability. Whether or not to share with your child their identified challenges is an important question. Personally, I feel that it is important to inform your child about both their strengths and their identified challenges. Given this information, your child is able to learn how to advocate for their own needs. Therefore, I recommend that it is important to share. However, it is important to first decide how to share this information.
How to Share
Recently, a colleague of mine, Dr. Lindsay Heath, explained how she coaches parents to share with their children. She explains that everyone has individual strengths and weaknesses, and they all differ. For example, the fastest runner in class is most likely not the fastest reader. Also, instead of calling a disability a “label,” consider it a pattern that just happens to have a name. By giving their pattern of strengths and weaknesses a name, then we are better able to identify how to help them reach their potential. Recently, I discovered an informative podcast with a parent discussing diagnoses, labels, and stigmas with her 12-year-old son on Tiltparenting. The child shares why he feels it is important for kids to understand their disabilities and challenges.
There are many age-appropriate resources available either online or through books. Children will likely relate to hearing others’ personal experiences or by reading about a character with a similar experience. This site has a list of children’s books about disabilities that are sorted by readability and their description: https://www.teachervision.com/childrens-books-about-disabilities. Additionally, here is a reading list of books that will provide the reader with an insider’s view of disability: http://www.nlcdd.org/resources-books-movies-disability.html. Currently, The Child Mind Institute is sharing stories from public figures about their experiences growing up with challenges with learning or mental health called #MyYoungerSelf. Lastly, Understood.org offers simulations that help you to see why learning and attention issues can be so challenging. Also, they have videos with kids talking about what it feels like to have learning and attention issues. Remember, your child uses you as their first-hand model for appropriate emotional expression. Prior to having this discussion with your child, you may want to prepare by first processing your concerns with a professional so that you are able to openly discuss your feelings with your child.