Having a neurodivergent child is difficult, but is it ever okay to hide their diagnosis from them? When these parents want to protect their daughter by waiting to tell her about her autism, and then get called out for it, they take to the popular Reddit forum to ask:
So pretty much, most of her life, our daughter (14F) had various issues. She had a speech delay, didn't make eye contact, was extremely hyperactive, had trouble making friends, fidgeted a lot, was extremely strict with rules, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
My wife and I suspected that she may be autistic and we took her to a psychologist when she was 4. The psychologist diagnosed her with hyperactivity disorder (although, we don't know if it coexists with her autism or if it was a misdiagnosis).
From 8-11, we gave our daughter as much early intervention as possible. She'd seen behavioral and speech (she was able to speak, but had a speech impediment) therapists. I've given her various books about how to make and keep friends (at that point, she was a bookworm).
We got her placed in a social class to help her build social skills. It wasn't until the end of her 4th-grade year that she actually got diagnosed with autism. Her psychologist was excited to tell her, but my wife was against it.
She wanted to wait until we felt our daughter was old enough to understand. We are aware of the stigma neurodivergent people experience and she didn't want our daughter to go through that. I agreed to hid it from her until she reached adulthood.
This next part is relevant. When our daughter got into grade 6, she was bullied due to her autistic traits. She was gaslit, taken advantage of, had many false friends who backstabbed her.
It made our daughter insecure about her poor social skills and that was when she started to mask. It left her with such immense trauma that she still has triggers and is in therapy.
Today, she came to us and asked 'What is autism?'. We told her it is a different way of thinking. She was confused since she didn't know we meant it in a sense that 'autistic people have a different brain chemistry from neurotypicals'.
After we elaborated, she told us the reason why she asked: she found out that she is autistic. She apparently found some of her old medical records lying around and read them out of curiosity.
She was upset and asked us how could we hide this from her. We explained that we wanted to tell her when she was older since we didn't want her to get hurt by other people.
She angrily yelled that she did get hurt anyways. She said that 'All this time, [she] thought that there was something wrong with [her], but if it weren't for [us], [she] wouldn't have taken the bullying to heart and [she] would've felt differently, but instead, [we] made [her] pain worse'.
Now she's in her room crying and refuses to speak to either of us. We are starting to wonder if we should've told her about autism when we knew. AITA?
YTA. Part of dealing with any sort of mental condition is understanding it and how to cope with it as well as being able to tell others about it if you choose to so they can understand it better.
You robbed your daughter of years of that. She could have grown up understanding she was different and why she was different and she could have coped with that.
YTA. You didn’t protect her from anything. She has had to live knowing she is different without any understanding as to why.
I am self diagnosed (getting professionally diagnosed is almost impossible in my area as a adult), and the knowing brought so much understanding to my own quirks, life experiences and many cases of bullying for just being different.
NTA. It is a label and diagnosis, and you worked to handle that.
If a child breaks their leg and you bring them to the hospital for treatment but you don’t actually tell them the words “you broke your leg” does that make you a ahole? No.
In the context of broken bones as we know them, that might be weird.
But imagine we lived in a world where people say they have broken legs when they don’t, just to take advantage of things. Or people with broken legs continuously troy that out as the reason why they can’t wash dishes or some bullshit.
Autism is unfortunately an extremely loaded term and used far too freely. You did nothing wrong by not labeling her and just letting her be herself, but also getting her the help she needs.