Diagnosticians Urged to Support a More Positive Autism Diagnosis Story

July 19, 2021

Changing to Strength-Based Approach Could be Key for Better Diagnostic Experience 

A recent editorial featured in the journal Autism has given diagnosticians a lot to think about. In response to the intense pain and distress parents often feel after their child is diagnosed with autism, the editorial’s authors are encouraging clinicians to change the way they deliver a diagnosis. These doctors favor using a strength-based diagnostic approach and moving away from the more commonly used deficit-based approach, which focuses on the skills that will be difficult for their child in the upcoming years. The strength-based approach distances itself from the viewpoint that people with autism are inherently inferior to neurotypical people and instead highlights both the strengths and challenges that autism provides. The authors indicate how critical it is to use the best, the most positive, and accurate “diagnostic story” with families from the start. Inevitably, it will guide parents’ thinking on how to accommodate, love, and respect their children for years to come. Instead of trying to fix or cure a child that has just received a diagnosis, these doctors and researchers advocate for diagnosticians to speak to parents in terms where they can begin to understand how their child learns and will encourage them to build positive environments to support their child’s unique needs and growth. At the end of the editorial, the authors provide seven suggestions to make delivering a diagnosis as meaningful, supportive, and respectful as possible. These suggestions include:

  1. Remembering that words are powerful
  2. Partnering with parents during disclosure
  3. Setting a positive and warm tone
  4. Being honest and remaining hopeful
  5. Considering how interventions/treatments are presented
  6. Considering intersectionality
  7. Addressing caregivers’ support needs

Original Editorial 

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