how to explain autism to kids

How Do I Explain Autism and Autistic Behavior to My 10-Year-Old Daughter?

A mom suspects that her two-year-old nephew may be on the autism spectrum and wants to know the best way to explain this to her 10-year-old daughter.

Over on the Mamas Uncut Facebook page, our robust community of moms is always having a conversation about topics that matter. We like to highlight those conversations from time to time. Important mom questions. Thoughtful mom answers. Let’s hear from the community!

A member of our community asks:

My nephew is 2, and we’re all pretty sure he is on the spectrum of being autistic. He will be tested soon so we will know for sure then, but I have a child who is 10 and I would like any advice on how I can explain to her what is going on with him.

I just want to be able to explain it the best I can to where she will understand what’s going on. I have tried to talk to her some, but I don’t think she is really understanding it. I have raised her with the mindset of “I don’t care how different someone is, you are always to be nice and never make fun of anyone,” but I just want her to know that, as he gets older and starts doing different things, she is not used to seeing that it’s normal for him even though its not for her.

Mamas Uncut Community Member

“Normal” Is Different for Everyone

“I would lead with the last line of your post. What’s ‘normal’ for her just isn’t for him, and that’s ok.”

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘normal.’ I have an ADHD child and get asked all the time why my son acts the way he does from other kids. I just say, “His brain is wired differently and it takes him a lot longer to understand than others.'”

“That he is different, but everyone is different, and that sometimes he will need a little extra attention, love, patience or help.”

From Those with Experience Dealing with Neurodivergent/Neuroatypical Children

“I have two kids with ASD and explained to them that their brain is wired differently, not better or worse, but differently. What other kids may find easy, you may have difficulties with, but on the other hand, you may be very good at things others find difficult. Amazon has a lot of books for kids to understand, some of which young kids with ASD have written and published themselves. The only true advice I can give is there is no right or wrong way to do it; you just have to wing it, drip-feed info. It also depends where on the spectrum he is: verbal or nonverbal, high or low functioning,”

“I explained to my 7-year-old how everyone is different, people’s brains work differently sometimes, just like how everyone looks different and that makes everyone special in their own way. Then just explain in words that she can understand, depending on where he is on the spectrum. Like if he was nonverbal, explain how that would be and how she would be able to help him if possible.”

Simple Things to Remember

“Just lead with the basics & let your child ask questions.”

“Everyone learns at their own pace and is different.”

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Once again, a range of incredible advice from our incredible community of moms. Thanks, everyone!

We think that the underlying point of most of this advice boils down to the idea that everyone is different. A 10-year-old likely already knows this, has been taught this, but this situation is really, simply an extension of that truth. If the original poster’s nephew is, in fact, autistic, certain concepts can be explained simply, but the most important thing for her to understand is that he is wired differently than she is. Since the original poster seems full of compassion and kindness, we’d bet her daughter is the same way and will easily understand.

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