Delivering bad news to your child with #Autism

Last night I wrote a post called The void inside of me. I shared how I was feeling about not only having to send Gavin to residential treatment but also having to tell him about it.

Many of my readers were concerned about Gavin telling Elliott and Emmett about this before we do.

Idealy, we wouldn’t tell them until it was actually happening.  However, this is far from the ideal situation. 

The concern is that if Gavin says anything to the boys,  it likely will be meant to turn them against us. It will neither be accurate or true and we can’t allow that to happen.

To be completely honest with you,  I hadn’t thought about that.  My readers are absolutely right.  We need to be the first ones to explain to the kids.  I just have no idea what to say or how to say it.  This is going to really hurt Elliott for sure.  I don’t know how Emmett will react though.


I will be spending today trying to figure out how to tell my youngest children that their big brother can’t live with us anymore. 

I’m thinking the truth is the best approach as Elliott will accept nothing less.  However, I worry about Elliott’s anxiety and what this news will do to him. I know what it’s doing to me and I’m all grown up.

I want to thank you all for suggesting this. I think I was too overwhelmed last night and didn’t see this clearly enough.

This was posted via WordPress for Android, courtesy of Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Please forgive any typos. I do know how to spell but auto-correct hate me.

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Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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All I can suggest is to focus on the positives. It's not that the family needs to "get rid" of Gavin, it's that Gavin needs to be in a place where he can feel safe and be happy. Also be prepared for the Es to wonder if they are next, and be ready to reassure them that you are ALL still a family, no matter where everyone lives. Best of luck and I'm praying for you guys.


I am pretty sure you will do just fine, and yes your reader are absolutely right! You do need to tel them first and most importantly ahead of the situation occurring.  I also absolutely agree that preparing them to the upcoming change will reduce shock and anxiety levels. 
Even it is going to be very upsetting for all of you to talk about it, but preparing them for the change and providing them with all possible information now, you are absolutely doing right and hugely beneficial thing for them. 
Speaking of Galvin, is he also aware of upcoming change?


I hope the best for you guys. Whatever you do, make sure you're very black & white about it, you explain what it's going to do, why it's happening, and what that will mean for the E's. They'll need all that information to cope with the sudden changes with lower anxiety. You probably will still get some anxiety from them, but having information and knowing what's happening tends to lower that. I would try to put it as a positive thing to them, rather than a negative. "Gavin is going to a special place where special doctors will help him learn to handle his frustration better. Gavin is going to be taught better ways of communicating what he wants or needs, because screaming and hitting himself aren't good ways. He might be gone for (x amount of time), but that doesn't mean no one loves him. He's going to these special doctors because everyone loves him and wants him to be happy, but we can't make him happy at home."
Something like that, i lost my train of thought. If you know if they'll be able to visit, you can probably add that in, but don't make it concrete unless you know.


This might be a conversation you need guidance to do in the right way. I strongly encourage you to have a strategy planned out in advance with Dr. Patti, with a script that has good answers for spoken and unspoken questions they might have.  I really like LeannaGeorge's use of "special school".  Even if it's not the truth, it will convey more of the truth to the kids — this is a safe place, this is a helping place, Gavin will learn better there — than if you told them the real truth.   Kids won't recognize the important distinction between Gavin's misbehavior and their own and if you say something like "Gavin's behavior makes it impossible…" that will convey to them that maybe one day their own behavior will make it impossible…


 @dotdash I used 'special school' because I felt that was the thing he could most relate to and understand.  Like you said, he understands school is a safe place, it can be a fun place, and it can be a place where she can learn.  He wouldn't quite understand 'Institution' and using the term 'hospital' would imply to him that Serenity is sick and could make him worry.    


Serenity is non-verbal, so she couldn't tell Caleb what we were doing with sending her to the Murdoch Developmental Center and the PATH program.  However, we were talking about it as a family, preparing mentally, physically, and financially for the coming change.  Caleb is 6 and also has Autism and ADHD, we knew he had to know what we were doing.  We were and are concerned that he may fear we may send him to institution at some point (that is not even an unidentified blip on the radar).  What we have done, was explain to Caleb that his sister was going to a special school and would stay there for up to 2 years.  At this school, she would learn better ways to communicate with people.  Serenity gets frustrated cause she can't talk and sometimes bites people and biting hurts.  Biting won't help her make friends, so she needs a better way to communicate.  We tried make it clear that Serenity wasn't being sent because she is a bad girl.  We have done all we can to put it in a positive light for Caleb.  Now just as long as he doesn't decide he wants to go to a special school we'll be fine.


 @LeannaGeorge I'm very familiar with the PATH program and Murdoch; you are very lucky you were able to get her in at this time.  Please make sure that when it's time for her to transition you work with the liaison and apply for a Money Follows the Person (MFP) CAP slot.


 @anansison Thanks.  We are optimistic.  She was admitted early September and they have already seen huge improvements in the aggression.  Looking forward to see if its lasting.  I'm familiar with MFP and also serve on the county's CFAC so hopefully I will be able to know how to line up the services she needs when she comes out.


@LeannaGeorge @anansison I really like how people are helping each other here. Thank you so much. My goal is to let something positive come from all of this.

Mary Franzen Costell

I grew up in a home where, at least in my young mind, there was always the threat of being kicked out. My sister got pregnanct in 1968 and it wasn't a pretty discussion; my mentally ill brother was viewed as a druggie and told to ship up or ship out. Another gay brother was told the same thing. From these experiences, I grew to fear that my parents love was fleeting and could be taken away at any infraction.WHile I'm sure you know, I tell you this only to remind you that Emmett and Elliot really need to understand that you will always love Gavin and them. That this is not a punishment and Gavin is always an important member of the family. If you haven't been there, it's hard to understand the thoughts that go through our minds when we witness these events as children. I lived in fear even as an adult that I would somehow do something that would make my parents quit loving me. They never quit loving any of their kids in their hearts, but for a child, actions and words most definitely speak louder than what's hidden deep in the hearts of others.
I wish you all peace during this process, and I'm so sorry it has to be. M


@Mary Franzen Costello thank you very much. That's very good advice. 🙂


Rob and Lizze, my heart is breaking for you.  There's no easy way to break the news to the E's but it's better they hear it from you before Gavin tells them in a scary and horrific manner that will no doubt hurt them.  Trying to think of suggestions on the wording; maybe in the line of the following:
"Emmett and Elliot, your brother has  a (disorder, illness, etc.) that causes him to do very bad things which makes it not safe for him to be home with others.  He is going to a good place to live where very nice people who are more trained to help him and to keep him safe from himself (and others).  He will always be your brother, you will always be his brothers and it's okay to miss him. He just cannot live at home anymore because it is not safe."
Hope this helps a little… and extra thoughts and prayers to you and Lizze. 


@MaryAnn47 thank you. That's probably the approach we are going to take. The goal is for him to return home at some point as well.