For many parents, the idea of telling their child they are neurodivergent might seem like horrible news.
But if that child has been struggling to fit in, that diagnosis can be the key to unlock the puzzle of their lives. Their behaviors or reactions labeled as strange suddenly make sense.
And they’re no longer alone because they then know other people experience the world in a manner similar to them.
It also allows them to get any help they might need with school.
So why would a parent withhold a neurodivergent diagnosis from their child? And if they do, is the child justified if they get mad?
One young woman is struggling with those questions herself. So she turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback.
Redditor francsghost asked:
“AITA after lashing out at my mum about her keeping my diagnosis away from me?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained:
“I (female, 16 ) recently found out that I am autistic and was diagnosed when I was about 12. My parents kept that from me and didn’t tell me for years.”
“When they told me it was in a public cafe and so many people were listening to my dad tell me that they have known for years and wanted to tell me once I turned 16.”
“I was and still am extremely upset that they didn’t tell me it’s my autism after all.”
“I lashed out at my mum and yelled at her saying this has completely ruined my trust with her cause I thought we could tell each other stuff like this. I also said she was being a bitch by telling me in a cafe also telling my whole family before me.”
“Am I the asshole for getting mad about the fact they didn’t tell me for years?”
The OP added this would not have been their first neurodivergent diagnosis.
“I have dyslexia and I’m really glad my parents told me about that cause the extra school support was really helpful.”
“[The autism diagnosis] was apparently thru my therapist and doctors for other medical things I had going on—been in and out of the New Zealand mental health system for years.”
“I did some form of testing years back but I just thought it was for my dyslexia.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided OP was not the a**hole.
“NTA. I’ll jump on this and say I’m 28 and only now realizing that I’m extremely likely to be autistic and want to pursue a diagnosis. I told my mom recently and said ‘I don’t know if this is out of the blue’.”
“She said no and went on to say that she and dad suspected something was up but didn’t know how to tell me. I didn’t ask how long they suspected.”
“I’m afraid of how angry I’ll be at the answer, but from the way she said it, it sounds like since I was a teenager. I love them so much, but I feel like I was let down in a big big way. I’m sorry OP. Love.”
“And OP is right about the loss of trust. Like I look at them different now, and that makes me sad.”
“It’s so unfair. It wasn’t right of them to know all about it and deliberately keep you in the dark.”
“I was feeling so bad for myself, but here’s someone nearly half my age going through the same thing. Only I have the luxury of having more life experience at this pivotal life moment.”
“Ugh. It’s not fair.” ~ ambientcold
“They told you in a cafe? Seriously?”
“Okay, for that alone you’re NTA.” ~ conuly
“My husband’s parents didn’t tell him they pretty much knew he had ADHD until we were getting our son evaluated due to several delays. Son has autism and ADHD.”
“His older sister has autism (diagnosed right after her brother, she was 4 and he was 2). I’ve never hidden this from them.”
“I was always open about why we were taking them to all these appointments and therapies and they know they’re different and why they struggle with certain things.”
“There’s no reason to keep it a secret, it’s not shameful!” ~ Redditor
“My parents did something similar. Knew or at least heavily suspected about my autism since I was a child.”
“I found out on my own around the age of 12 and couldn’t see them the same since.”
“Not knowing I had a disorder caused so many of my self-esteem issues, because I was left to feel like I just needed to try harder to stamp out the broken/wrong/weird parts of me, instead of knowing it was an inherent thing outside of my control.”
“NTA. NTA at all.” ~ Terrible-Particular5
“NTA. This is something my parents did too.”
“I’ve felt almost betrayed because the kicker is that I didn’t find out from them, I found out from my school.”
“I felt like they didn’t trust me enough to tell me, and it really fucking sucked.” ~ Chitaru
“NTA. Sorry you were kept in the dark about this, but know it doesn’t change who you are in any way.
“You are still the same you you were yesterday.”
“It is strange to keep a diagnosis like this from you, especially since knowing may have helped you IF you had any struggles socially / with certain subjects/ sensory sensitivities etc.:
“A diagnosis may have also helped answer inner questions you have, or encouraged you to explore less mainstream approaches that may have been more suited to you , for ex. in education/hobbies.”
“The thing is you know now, and knowing doesn’t change who you are, but may give you a better understanding of how you think and approach the world.
“Sending all my positive feelings your way 💚” ~ Ruabo
“Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t say anything about the autism.”
“The diagnosis could have given you additional supports in school if you needed them. NTA at all.” ~ justme7256
“I’m sorry that your experience wasn’t good! I work in Canada, and in the before pandemic times when assessments were in person, we interviewed kids and parents together, then each separately, then together again for the diagnostic explanation and plan.”
“These days it’s more tough because it’s hard to keep kids on the video call for long.”
“But yeah, unless a parent has an unusual and very good reason for withholding this kind of information, we would just tell the kid.”
“Kids need to understand a) they aren’t bad or in trouble b) some of the difficulties they have can be named and c) we label these difficulties so we can help them.”
“Diagnosis is important because otherwise kids may think they are ‘just a bad kid’. So I think they should have told you.” ~ MillieTheDestroyer
“There is research to explain the why for some of it.”
“Kids under 7 don’t seem to benefit from knowing their medical needs as it can ‘self-other’ and create a negative mindset to learning. But research shows that age 7+ benefit from knowing because they already see their abilities and needs are different and internalize it if they don’t have the reason explained to them.”
“Of course this isn’t a one size fits all.”
“In my opinion your parents should have told you years ago and I am sorry for the situation they have created by not being honest.”
“I was in a similar one with panic attacks until I was an adult. I honestly thought I was a broken human because of it and hid it all the time out of shame.”
“Until I had to be hospitalized and when a psyhcologist told me what I was going through my mum just causally mentioned ‘oh yeah she has always had panic attacks we knew’.”
“I love my mum but I can never forgive her for letting me feel so broken for my whole childhood. Anyways NTA.” ~ ohno_spaghetti_o
“Parents seem to sometimes think that not telling allows a child to be ‘normal’ and it really doesn’t.”
“I was diagnosed at 24 and my first thought (after ‘I really am broken’) was ‘This explains so much’.”
“As you say, kids can recognize when they’re different from other kid.” ~ Jayn_Newell
Redditors agreed OP had every right to be angry with her parents.
Keeping this from her was of no benefit to the OP in her life.
Whether trust can be restored will probably depend on what her parents do now that she knows the truth.