Who (and When) Do You Tell about Your Child’s Disability?

Posted January 25, 2010 by

My child’s behavior issues started at age two. Out in public, he would appear to strangers to be a spoiled, indulged kid. Strangers would glare at my ineffective parenting. I kept quiet and secretly thought about printing up business cards to explain our situation.

When preschool started, he did not have any labels or a diagnosis yet. However, he did have some negative behaviors in the classroom. I shared his issues and my concerns. His teachers were very understanding and had the luxury of getting an aide to help in the classroom. By anticipating problematic situations, many negative situations were avoided. None of the other parents knew why our class had an aide.

By first grade, Builder did have labels assigned to him and an IEP. As both a teacher and parent, I want the school to understand my child. I also want the services accompanying the IEP. The extra interventions have helped him succeed. With the push in and pull out model of special education, no one knows why a child is getting extra help.

I have told our close friends and family about Builder’s daily challenges and why. I have shared articles and strategies with their children to help facilitate successful interactions between the kids. I have not told many other school families.

Builder has not wanted us to share information with his classmates. Like most children, he just wants to fit in. He does not want to be singled out. However, the inappropriate social behaviors accepted in second and third grades are not easily accepted in fourth and fifth.

Would he benefit from the other children understanding how and why he behaves I think so. Do I want to single him out for being on the spectrum or ADHD I think not. Some parents have shared their stories beautifully and written helpful books. I would love to share his story, but I am certain Builder does not. So who and when do you tell about your child’s issues Does it just depend on the personality of your child Does it depend on the severity of the behaviors.

Perhaps the better question is, “How” I have a friend who tells the families her son is playing with some helpful hints. For example, a hand on his shoulder will calm him down, or using direct eye contact. My favorite strategy I always make sure Builder is well fed before going anywhere.

Helping our children understand themselves is essential. Making sure they have strategies to use at school or on playdates will help them. I think telling them about the strengths of their label is also important — along with providing examples of successful adults with the same labels.

How do you tell people about your child’s differences Has this worked for your family?


Kim Stricker is a mom to two boys, an elementary school teacher, and freelance writer. She also writes a blog called lifeslikethis about the daily experiences of raising a child with Asperger’s and ADHD.

Popular on Empowering Parents


Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families