For more from Ashley, you can follow her on Twitter: @AshleyGraf101.

I’m of the firm opinion that it is a grave mistake to withhold a diagnosis. I’ve found that this can come in two forms – a parent avoiding the visit to the specialist doctor so their child can undergo testing, or going through with it and refusing to tell your child the results.

In my case, the first happened. The school counsellor had suspicions I was autistic when I began Year 7, and told my parents, who decided to keep this to themselves for the next 2.5 years. And so I was only told that I should consider getting a checkup at a psychiatrist mid Year 9.

The time from first suspicions to diagnosis was 24/7 misery. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did. There was no part of my life I could look at and think was okay. I would run away to the local park frequently, and otherwise retreat to the internet, which became my safe space. I knew something was different, maybe wrong with me, and I didn’t know what it was. I just couldn’t connect and I couldn’t keep up. I felt broken.

In all likelihood, by the time someone with a disability works it out or is told their diagnosis, they will be hurt – by all the wasted years they were stuck, unable to work out a way to catch up with their peers, and not knowing themselves. It’s frustrating not knowing how your brain works – only knowing that it’s different. You can’t advocate for yourself until you know what you need.

If they’re anything like me, they’ll be very bitter. Very, very bitter. A lack of trust between parent and child may begin or expand after the withholding of such grave information. It’s a traumatic experience; finding out what was missed due to delay. Childhood and puberty is difficult enough without opening another cause for distrust.  Your child probably knows they are different, but doesn’t know why. They just know that things are harder for them, and they’re being treated differently, and they may well sense there’s something they aren’t being told.

It took me till the end of second year uni to begin to be able to catch up to my peers career-wise, as I had developed a number of complexes which prevented me from doing anything, on top of the usual executive function problems autism causes. In an economic climate like this, it’s time you can’t afford to lose. Tell your child. They deserve to know.

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