“It’s like you’re playing some kind of new sport and nobody has told you the rules, but everyone else has magically figured them out.”
That’s how Chris Bonello describes his Asperger syndrome diagnosis, at the age of 25.
He's a former primary school teacher and now an award-winning writer and speaker.
Chris told Kinderling Conversation his life experience has left him eager to raise awareness of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, from the perspective of those experiencing it.
A happy child is taught to celebrate their strengths
Chris says parents need to be careful not to define their child by the diagnosis and that the most important predictor of a happy child is to celebrate their strengths, wherever they happen to be.
“I spent most of my 20’s wondering if there was something diagnosably wrong with me. So I refused to believe that my neurology is wrong, or incorrect or inferior,” Chris said.
Acceptance of difference is at the heart of Chris’s advice for children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome, as well as their parents and carers.
He says there are three significant things children and their parents can do to ensure the diagnosis does not define them .
1.Know what your strengths are and play to them. You will hear a lot about what you are not 'supposed' to be good at. If you are human, you have strengths. So find your strengths and also the opportunities in life to play to them.
2. Help your child understand that there's nothing ‘wrong’ with them; they're just different.
"Self-perception is such an important thing. The difference in a positive self-perception versus a negative one for anyone with autism or Asperger’s syndrome, is huge," said Chris.
3 . My parents saw me first, not just my diagnosis. Autistic children are different from each other in the same ways that normal children are different from each other. Look at your child’s personality needs and strengths, rather than their diagnosis.
How to stop the leading cause of death for autistic children
There are some pretty scary statistics - here's how you can help.
Why an autism diagnosis doesn't define your child
Autism advocate Chris Bonello has an important message for parents and carers.
"Give us both six weeks" – the sweet open letter every new parent needs to read
Spoiler alert: it's from the point of view of your baby.
To the father of my children, here's what I don’t tell you enough
Kids change things, but you're still my big love.
Meet the artist who turns all your kid's drawings into one work of art
What a great idea! Who would love one of these on their wall?
12 annoying things my mum said that I swore I’d never use
But oh how times change...
The fascinating way birth order affects our children’s personality
Is this true in your family?
10 things a child is trying to say when they're chucking a tantrum
... plus seven things they aren't trying to say.