Telling siblings about an autism diagnosis

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Telling siblings about an autism diagnosis

My parents agonize over when is the best time to tell their, typically developing child, that their brother or sister is on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder Scale. What I tell them is, that it really depends on that typically developing child. What do I mean by that? It depends on their specific chronological and developmental level, because if you listen carefully, kids ask us specifically what they want to know. Too often, because my parents are so anxious, sometimes they don't always help. They want to give to information, too fast. It's sort of like teaching about the birds and the bees. The child says, "Where am I from?" And the mother goes, "Wait, wait. I'm going to get all the reproductive books and I'm going to tell you all the details." All the kid wanted to know was "Ohio." When a child asks me about their brother or sister, I actually listen and I answer only the question that is being asked. If I answer that specific piece, pretty soon that child is able to digest that answer, and will get to the next question. Eventually, we'll get the whole story together.

View Esther Hess, PhD's video on Telling siblings about an autism diagnosis...


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Esther Hess, PhD

Pediatric Psychologist

Dr. Esther Hess is a developmental psychologist. She specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with developmental delays, regulatory disorders and language impairment, specifically autism, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified.  In addition, she treats various psychological ailments including, affective disorders, selective mutism, school phobias, attention deficit disorder, non-verbal learning disorders and difficulties as related to childhood response to parental divorce. Her expertise is in the utilization and application of a developmentally based psychotherapy (the DIR model) as devised by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. This model, conceptualized as Floor Time, takes into consideration the various underlying elements that may be impeding the child including where he/she is at developmentally, various biological constraints, and the relationship between the child and the parent. 

In addition to working with the impacted person, Dr. Hess interfaces with the entire family and coordinates the efforts of the various members of team specialists who assist in boosting the impacted individual’s developmental lag.  She is currently one of Dr. Greenspan’s Senior Clinicians on the West Coast, certified in  D.I.R./Floor Time and has trained parents, interventionists and clinicians both nationally and internationally in the developmental/relational method known as Floor Time.  Dr. Hess is the executive director of a multidisciplinary treatment facility in West Los Angeles, Center for the Developing Mind.

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