I know someone who suspects their twelve year old son is autistic but refuses to try and sort out a diagnosis in case the process upsets the son. I don’t usually comment on other people’s parenting but if the kid is autistic then he would only be able to get any help and support he needs if he is diagnosed due to the system here in the UK.
I’m not gonna comment on their avoidance of diagnosis, but there are things they can try without a diagnosis.
First, the biggest thing that a parent could do is simply not assume neurotypicality. They can learn about autistic traits and what they look like, and challenge assumptions like “he’s so smart, this should be easy” or “she did this before, she can do it consistently”. They can work at getting out of the habit of assuming their child’s abilities will follow neurotypical rules, and start noticing the patterns that actually predict what their child can and can’t do. As a result, they can learn to not interfere with the kid’s already existing coping strategies, and not lay inappropriate unnecessary challenges on them.
Depending on the kid’s specific struggles, they can also do stuff like:
* scheduling a sensory break immediately after school to destress
* analyzing what went wrong after a social gaffe and explaining the social norms the kid misunderstood
* getting them a smart device and finding apps that help them function
* teaching them to recognize when they’re overloaded
* getting as much information as they can about upcoming events and explaining them to the kid so they’re better prepared for expected changes
They can also start talking to others about it. This is a lot more effective with an actual diagnosis, but some people are willing to accept an explanation and a request for reasonable accommodation without a diagnosis. This is especially true in informal settings with people with a close personal connection to the child, such as extended family, friends of the family, etc.
They can also explain their child’s behavior to siblings. “He doesn’t hate you, he hit you because you were making a lot of noise and he forgot how to ask you to be quiet.” “I think she does that with her hands because it feels good and makes her happy.”
There are some things you need a diagnosis for, especially when dealing with social institutions like school or work. But there’s a lot you can do informally if you understand your child’s traits, regardless of any diagnosis.
I’m a late-diagnosed autistic person with a self-diagnosed autistic parent. Even without knowing about autism, he managed to do a lot to make my life easier as a child.