Telling your child about his/her diagnosis is a very personal decision. We were guided by an example and a comment from two very different people in our lives. The first were my mother and father. I was adopted as an infant and my parents decided that I would be told about this reality very early on in my life – so early in fact that I cannot actually recall when I knew, just that I always did.
My parents talked about my adoption as though it were a gift. They wanted another child so badly, but couldn’t have one of their own, so they chose me (this was the sixties, when they were lots of babies to be adopted). As a young girl I felt incredibly special: I had been chosen! So when kids eventually made fun of me, I was flabbergasted: “Your parents had to have you. My parents chose me!” The retort was swift and certain and that was the end of that.
My second guide was a friend, who is gay, and who reminded me that creating an air of secrecy around anything that’s a part of you only creates a sense of shame and self-loathing. So our decision was pretty clear from the beginning.
Several books helped: I Am Utterly Unique was on hand when we first told Ryan. He loved it and it immediately got across the ‘you are different and special’ message that we felt was important. Asperger’s Huh? was another one he loved because it looked like a cartoon.
Tonight we just read Dinosaur Diego and I think I’m going to buy it for Ryan’s class to read together. It’s a great story about a boy who loves dinosaurs. Ryan couldn’t relate to the character in some ways, but in others he piped right up: ‘Hey, that’s like me.’ And it is pretty cool to see something you associate with yourself in a book. I would definitely recommend it.
The book was produced in Canada by a great group called Wildberry Productions. They’ve created a whole series of books called We Are Powerful all about kids dealing with challenges like ADHD, Tourette’s, OCD, Dyslexia and Fetal Alcohol Sydrome. I think they’ve done a fantastic job.
What books have you read with your kids that have helped or made a difference?