How to support someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
It can be challenging when you have a loved one that has been diagnosed with ASD. It is a condition that has no cure and that needs to be managed. There are some things that you can do to help support your loved one. These are discussed below.
It is a good idea to read as much information about autism as you can. Understanding autism and what it means can help you to recognize the ways that your loved one is affected and the ways that you can help.
To read more information on autism, you can view our pages on autism and mental health and getting help for autism.
Find the right support
It is important for you to find support for your child as soon as you suspect that they might have autism. Your child will have a better chance at a successful life, if they get support starting from an early age. You might:
- Book an appointment with a GP, paediatrician or a therapist
- Offer support when they attend appointments (e.g. attending some sessions if you need to or waiting in the waiting room)
- Find parent groups to connect with and ask for advice. You can find local support groups on the NHS support page for autism.
- Take available online courses on autism to help you learn better ways to support your loved one. You can find these on the family support page of the national autistic society website.
Be mindful of their sensitivities
Many children with ASD are hypersensitive to things such as lights, sounds, smells and movement. It is important for you to know what they might be sensitive to, so that you can make adjustments to their environment and they can feel more comfortable.
Understand how they communicate
You will be able to support your loved one better if you understand their way of communicating. Do not rely on only verbal forms of communication. They might also use some non-verbal forms of communication such as body-language, movements or facial expressions.
Learning the ways that they communicate will help you understand what they need. This can also help you to improve the connection between you and your loved one.
Educate family and friends about autism
It will be helpful for your loved one if family and friends also understand autism and the way it affects your loved one. This will help them to be mindful and make changes to the way they interact with the child.
For example, if your child is sensitive to loud noises, they can try to avoid making sudden loud noises when they are around. This will help your child to feel more at ease, when they are around other people.
Encourage them to have a structure
Children with ASD see other people and the world differently from others. Sometimes this can be overwhelming and can cause them to feel anxious, especially when there are uncertainties.
Having a routine can help them to complete tasks and feel less anxious because they will know what to expect. You might help them to:
- Make a regular timetable
- Make a checklist
- Use fun colour codes for their schedule
- Use creative stimulators (e.g. fridge magnets, sticky notes, phone reminders)
- Have a regular bedtime routine
- Be prepared for any changes to the schedule
Be patient and accepting
A child with autism has an entire life to develop more and more skills that will help them to be successful in their daily life. It is important to be patient with your loved one.
It is also good to be accepting towards your loved one. Sometimes, parents might get carried away with trying to help their child because they are different. Instead of focusing on the things that they are not good at, you could focus more on their strengths and other ways that they are special.
Make time for fun
Your child also needs to do fun activities that does not feel like work. Don’t allow your child’s schedule to be full of therapy and skills programmes without any time for fun. Schedule time for them to do activities that they enjoy, because play is important for development and learning for all children.
Look after yourself too
It is extremely important for you to look after yourself. Whether you are a parent, family member or a friend, you will be in a better position to give help, as long as you are taking care of your own well-being too. To do this you might:
- Get other family members also involved in supporting your loved one
- Schedule some time off for yourself
- See a professional that can support your mental health
To read more about looking after yourself, see our page on self-care when helping someone else.
List of useful resources
To read information for families on supporting a child with autism on the NHS website, you can click here to access the link.
To read information for parents on helping a child with autism on the Autism speaks website, you can click here to access the link.
National Autistic Society
To read information and access educational courses about autism on the National Autistic Society website, you can click here to access the link.