How can I get my family to accept my child's diagnosis?

"She'll grow out of it", "You're just being negative" and "He makes eye contact so he can't be autistic". These are the type of comments which can upset even the most balanced person, but are particularly hurtful and frustrating when they come from the people who are supposed to be on your side: your family. 

"I would like support from my family, instead of being seen as a neurotic mother who just wants to put a label on her child," says one mum. "How do you cope?"

Some grandparents find a diagnosis very hard to cope with, particularly with special needs that are not obviously 'visible', such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Grandparents don't want to accept there is anything 'wrong' with their grandchild, and may feel guilty about the diagnosis. In such cases, denial may be a form of self-protection.

Some parents of children with special needs cope by avoiding discussing their child's diagnosis with their own parents, but it can be tough when you really need their love and support. You can end up feeling like a rubbish parent who sees the worst in their own child, rather than someone who really wants to get their son or daughter the best help they possibly can.

"Denial is just often a reflection of distress and a sense of impotence," says one Mumsnetter. "A diagnosis feels big and scary and family members don't know what to do. So they try to minimise, and end up making us feel as if we are incredibly negative about our own children."

Some mums advocate a practical approach: if relatives are meeting the child's practical and emotional needs in an understanding and patient way, then their opinions of autism don't matter so much.

If possible, a heart-to-heart chat can help: "I eventually told my mum that although I realised that she was trying to be positive, it upset me to constantly have to try and persuade her of my child's difficulties, because it made me feel as though I wanted my child to have problems that didn't exist. She has always been very supportive since."

Another Mumsnetter says: "I needed my mum to at least try to get it. So I sat her down and explained. I told her that this was a huge thing for me to try and come to terms with but I had to focus now on helping my son and I needed her to trust that I knew my own child - and to help me. I gave her some sensible sites to look at, and my son's diagnostic report."

If you're still trying to get through to the child's grandparents, it may be worth trying to track down some guides to diagnosis and leave them surreptitiously placed around the house. Some websites have downloadable guides which can be printed off. 

Or, as a last resort, you can take the approach that one mum took after her in-laws refused to accept her son's diagnosis of ADHD: "I simply let them all look after him at theirs for the weekend, and hey presto... they got it!"


Last updated: about 3 years ago