Tara and her sons, Wyatt and Rye.

Tara and her sons, Wyatt and Rye.

I think it is safe to say that most parents thinking about having “the talk” with their children who our entering puberty meet this task feeling excited or completely confident.

Most parents I know feel a great deal of anxiety just thinking about it.

When is the right time?  Is my child ready?  Will they be embarrassed? Can we both handle it?  How much information should I share?  Did I do a good job?  Did I leave things in a space that will allow my child to feel comfortable in asking questions when they need to?

Not all parents handle this conversation the same. Some parents avoid the conversation completely. Parents of children with disabilities have a lot to think about when they have this talk and there is another “talk” that weighs on many parents.

I work with many families who ask when, how, and if they should talk to their children about their disability. This topic typically comes up about the time of the traditional “talk” for a lot of families. Thinking about your child growing up is a scary thought and talking to them about becoming an adult is even scarier.

I don’t have all the answers, but it has been my experience that it is best to provide individuals with all the information you can.

Provide them with the truth.

Talking about things that are hard for individuals and explaining why it might be more difficult for them seems to be helpful in the long run, even though starting the conversation and dialogue is never easy.

I remember the first time my son Rye tried to ask me about his disability. He referred to it as being “sick” and asked me if he “was okay”. I was initially taken back that he would perceive his differences in this way.

I knew right then it was time to have “the talk”.

I have taken the approach of explaining to Rye that his autism diagnosis does present it’s challenges but it also has a lot to do with why he is so good at certain skills.

I’ve explained that he is not sick but his brain works differently than most other people.

I’ve told him that autism makes it hard for him to talk to other people sometimes and to understand that other people think differently than him.

I’ve also told him autism is what makes him so good at Legos, why he always remembers a lot of details and facts about his favorite things, and why he can always pull a picture into his brain and remember it forever.

There is a lot to consider when talking with your child and the best advice I can give is to have a plan.

  • Setting and maintaining a positive tone about everyone’s uniqueness is usually a good place to start.
  • Everyone is unique, has different likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, and physical characteristics.
  • Like anything in life it’s probably best that your child hear information from you first to prevent confusion and to avoid false information.
  • You know your child better than anybody. You know what they are capable of understanding and what they can ultimately handle.

Being aware of who you are and what makes you different isn’t a bad thing. Being aware, understanding differences and focusing on ability is what makes a great Advocate.

Having “the talk” is the first thing you can do to ensure your child becomes one.