Living With Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most common developmental disabilities in the United States. The condition also significantly affects boys and men more than girls and women. However, these numbers could be skewed as women and girls are more likely to be misdiagnosed with ASD as they have quieter symptoms.

Getting a diagnosis of ASD can be scary for both the person with the condition and their families. While there’s currently no cure for ASD, there are treatment plans that can help a person with ASD live a relatively normal life and have minimal disruptions to their daily functioning.

If you’ve just learned that you or your child has ASD, your primary concern must be what’s next. If you have never lived with a person who has the condition, it can be confusing to figure out how to help yourself or someone you love. 

This article explores the emotional, physical, and social impacts of living with ASD. It also provides tips to people who are caring for someone else with ASD.

Emotional Impact of Living With Autism 

Dealing with ASD can take an emotional toll on the families and people living with the condition. They need to get as much emotional support as they can.

For an autistic adult, finally getting a diagnosis after a lifetime of living with symptoms of a condition they didn’t know they had can be difficult.

The diagnosis can also be hard for children to understand when they are at an age where it needs to be explained to them. This often results in certain emotional pitfalls such as: 

  • Throwing prolonged tantrums 
  • Becoming even more withdrawn than usual 
  • Having trouble sleeping 

These emotional reactions might often mimic other mental health conditions like depression and the two conditions sometimes co-occur.

Autism might co-occur with other conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, sleep, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Dealing with the emotions of an ASD diagnosis is even more difficult for people living with ASD as they typically have problems processing and communicating their emotions.

A lot of people living with ASD experience anxiety. This is typically brought on by the frustrations of how the condition's symptoms affect their day-to-day living.

If your child is exhibiting anxiety symptoms, it could be because of temporary frustration and not because they’ve developed an anxiety disorder. Instead, it could be because they are experiencing overstimulation to certain stimuli or there has been a disruption in their regular routines.

Their anxiety could also be a result of feeling misunderstood when they try to communicate with others. All of this can be especially common with non-verbal children living with ASD. 

Autistic children are also prone to meltdowns, especially when they’ve just been diagnosed. However, the severity and frequency of their meltdowns reduce as they adjust to living with the condition and begin a treatment regimen. 

Physical Impact of Living With Autism

For autistic people, the condition tends to remain a point of focus whenever they are at the doctor's office. However, it’s important to stay on top of other regular medical checkups like annual physicals and monthly dental visits. 

There are several treatment programs tailored for people with ASD. Very few of these programs include a physical activity regimen. Some people with ASD might find that their motor skills such as walking or coordination are affected by the condition.

Staying physically active has been proven to improve communication skills and reduce negative behaviors in autistic children.

A person with ASD needs to stay active to remain healthy. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep is as important as any treatment plan involving medication and psychotherapy.

Engaging in organized group sport and game activities can also help an autistic child develop their social skills.

Some people with ASD find it hard to maintain a balanced diet because they are picky eaters. It’s not uncommon to hear that an autistic person refuses to eat certain foods because of their color, taste, or textures.

As a caretaker of an autistic person, it’s essential to work with them around their food preferences to find foods that they like but are also healthy. It might take some time to work through this process, and the person with ASD might throw an occasional tantrum, which is why it’s important to be patient with them.

You can keep a food diary of the foods they like and dislike and build a food timetable from there. 

Some people with ASD also struggle with sleeping problems. This can be brought on by several reasons, from restlessness to overstimulation. To help your autistic child get adequate sleep, you should stick to a strict bedtime and begin a bedtime routine to help them wind down.

If you have ASD and find it challenging to get enough sleep, sticking to a strict bedtime routine will also benefit you. Keep a sleep diary and make a note of the days you struggle with sleep and what you think might be causing it. 

Social Impact of Living With Autism

Autistic people often find it difficult to socialize. However, it’s incredibly important for a person living with ASD to get adequate social support. Social support can come from family, friends, and local support group meetings in their area. 

Joining a local support group doesn’t just provide help for the person living with ASD but for their families too. You get to meet other families in similar situations at support group meetings, especially families who might have more experience dealing with ASD. They may offer you valuable tips and tricks.

According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with conditions such as ASD are eligible to get certain free or low-cost services to help with their condition. These services include physical therapy, speech therapy, medical evaluations, and other services.

If you suspect your child has ASD or other developmental challenges but hasn’t gotten a diagnosis, the IDEA allows children under 10 to benefit from these services. 

Resources and Organizations

Organizations like Autism Society and Autism Speaks are likely to have a support group you could join in your community or a community next to yours. You can also reach out to Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) or Color of Autism for additional support.

Caregiving & Helping Others

If you are taking care of a person living with autism, it’s important to remember to also take care of yourself. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, the condition can sometimes be challenging to manage. Taking care of your own emotional and physical health helps you provide the best support for the autistic person you are taking care of.

Autism is a lifelong condition, but a person with ASD can live a relatively normal life with proper treatment and care. 

If you have an autistic child, it’s crucial to be patient when communicating with them. Speak and clearly, and make use of their name often so that they know you are speaking to them. If you have a severely non-communicative child, you can also use signs and gestures to aid communication.

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8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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