Do Not Condemn Your Child To A Life Of Confusion

If your child gets an autism diagnosis, do tell them about it! To do otherwise is a Faustian bargain.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

Actually, my advice goes for any mental condition. It can be autism, schizophrenia, general anxiety disorders, etc. In this article, I’ll talk only about autism because that the condition that affects me the most, and I believe that my anxiety and depression stem from it.

A young person recently announced that their parents knew that they were autistic from a very young age. This person had been officially diagnosed. However, the parents decided to keep this fact from them. Their reasoning was that they did not want their child to use autism “as a crutch.”


On its face, this type of reasoning may appear to make sense, especially if you are ignorant regarding how autism may affect your child. However, denying your child the benefit of a diagnosis is a Faustian bargain. Oh, sure, this child won’t be able to use autism as a crutch. However, they’ll still feel the effects of it, and this will take a toll on their mental health.

See, we don’t pick and choose how autism affects us. We don’t decide to suck at body language, or to have difficulty with friendships, or our sensory issues, or the somatic conditions that accompany autism. Not only do we not pick these, but they also can change over time. They certainly did for me.

Now, as far as I know, my parents did not get an autism diagnosis for me, and thus they did not have the opportunity to hide anything. I don’t know if anybody suggested it to them. At any rate, I flew under the radar until the age of 50. This is when I self-diagnosed. Therefore, I can take myself as an example of someone who has been autistic from birth, but only realized it much later in life.

I don’t think even for one second that the ignorance of my own condition was beneficial to my well-being overall. Maybe I did not use autism as a crutch, but I did pay for my ignorance is so many other ways. Prior to self-diagnosis, my life was a confused mess.

Let’s go over a few aspects of this mess.

I’m divorced from a 22-year marriage. The root cause of my divorce is the fact that my ex-wife became fed up with my autistic traits. In brief, she’d glare at me. However, I could not perceive her glares. She’d then accuse me of being deliberate in not seeing her glares. Then I’d accuse her of inventing glares. Rinse and repeat. I begged her to explicitly tell me about her displeasure, to no avail.

Our recurring disputes were baffling to me. We did not know that I was autistic. We both assumed that our way of perceiving the world was universal. Moreover, we did not talk about neurodivergence in our household. If we had known that I was autistic, we might have organized our life differently, but we did not, so this marriage is now over.

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Friendships are also rather baffling to me. Yes, I have had friends. However, keeping them is difficult. I found myself friendless after my divorce. Now that I know that I’m autistic, I privilege autistic and queer relationships over others. I find friends by going to events in town. If I had known earlier that I was autistic, I could have done this earlier in my life, and I’m convinced that I’d be in a better situation now regarding friendships.

Another problem for me has been trying to fit into the societal expectations of office life. I’ve worked as a software engineer in an office. I’ve also taught at the university level. Both were significant impositions on my mental health. I managed to avoid burnout only because my marriage to my ex-wife worked as a buffer. I eventually left the office to return to school with my ex-wife’s blessing, and then my ex-wife and I chose a life that did not spur my academic career. I was satisfied with this, but then we divorced.

I was able to tolerate office life when I had to do, but it was awkward, and would most have likely led to burnout. It was like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Can it be done? Yes, it can. However, in order to do it, you need to mash the peg into the hole. For one thing, it takes effort to do the mashing. Also, once the mashing is, done you’ve got a damaged peg. Similarly, some autistic folks can mash themselves into an office, but it takes a toll, and leaves them damaged.

Nowadays, I do not want to ever return into an office. The job that puts money on the table right now is tutoring. I can set my own schedule. I can nap when I want to. I don’t have to deal with office politics. I also advocate for autistic people, and I write about my autism, and I also have a couple of books in the works.

What good did it do me to realize so late in life what I should be doing? Yes, I tried to fit the square peg into the round hole, the best I could, but it was mostly a waste of time. If I had known right off the bat that I was autistic my path in life would certainly have been different, and in fact I’d be better positioned now to do the jobs that I can do. The tutoring is nice, but with mathematics I have to relearn what I had learned over 30 years ago to be able to do it. If I had known earlier, it would be easier.

Autistic people who do not know that they are autistic are condemned to try to mold themselves to fit into neurotypical society. This is a recipe for extreme discomfort, and, eventually, burnout. If they do know that they are autistic, then they can mold society to fit their needs. This is a much better proposition. One which can help them avoid an eventual burnout.

If your child gets an autism diagnosis, do tell them. You’ll spare them a life of confusion.






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