Here is a great article with some tips on when and how to start that conversation.
Your child has autism. How (and when) do you tell him?
It’s a conversation that requires more thought and planning than talks about sex, money, religion or drugs. For parents of a child who has an autism spectrum disorder, discussing what makes him different and why is a delicate matter.
When do you need to have the talk, and how do you do it so your child comes away feeling good about himself (and doesn’t start using it as an excuse for every little thing he doesn’t want to do)?
NBC’s “Parenthood” tackled this beautifully in a 2011 episode called “Qualities and Difficulties.”
After Max, who has Asperger syndrome, overhears his father and uncle talking (okay, shouting)
about his diagnosis, his parents Adam and Kristina, seek advice from a therapist on how to discuss it with Max. The answer? Emphasize his strengths and talk about how, just like anyone else, he has challenges too:
Link for Parenthood clip: http://www.nbc.com/parenthood/video/the-runners-stumble/n2302
I recently spoke with Jim Ball, the executive chairman of the National Board for the Autism Society, and Amy Keefer, a clinical psychologist at Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. They agreed with the approach advocated in the show: Emphasize that everyone, every single person, is good at some things and struggles with others.
“Most families aren’t uncomfortable with having the talk, they just question when to do it and struggle with whether he or she has to know,” Ball said. “For a lot of our individuals, they see the world differently and they just go about their business, so why throw a wrench in it? That’s just how they see the world. It’s more about should I or shouldn’t I, as opposed to being afraid.”
It also helps to remember that even if you are really nervous about the conversation, most kids have either a neutral or a positive response to the news, Keefer said, and go about their day after the talk.