Caregiving For Someone With Autism

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Autism is a lifetime disorder. Depending on the severity, an autistic person may need to be taken care of for life. If you've just found out that your child or a loved one has this condition, you are probably wondering the next steps to take. 

Autism can be a challenging condition, especially when you, as a caregiver, are not equipped with the right information to take care of a person who has the disorder. If you are the parent or guardian of a child with autism, it's crucial to educate yourself on the appropriate way to take care of an autistic child.

This article looks into caregiving tips that can help you give a person with autism the proper care. It also looks into the importance of caring for yourself while looking after a person with autism. 

Know the Symptoms to Look Out For 

Autism is a developmental disorder that's common in the United States today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 44 children have autism. It's also four times more common in boys than in girls.

With adults, the symptoms of autism are a little more recognizable. Also, because the condition develops in childhood, autistic adults will most likely already have been equipped with the tools to take better care of themselves. Autistic children, on the other hand, need a lot of care.

The condition can be diagnosed as early as three years old in children. Autism is characterized by behavioral, communication, and social challenges. However, each person with the condition will exhibit a unique set of symptoms. This is why it's essential to know and recognize the symptoms your autistic child exhibits to learn how to take care of them. The most common signs of autism to look out for include: 

  • Difficulty communicating 
  • Little or no social skills 
  • Shows no interest in playing with other children 
  • Avoids eye contact when they are being spoken to 
  • Likes to stick to routines and get upset when they are disrupted 
  • Makes repetitive movements 
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Has difficulty showing emotions
  • Sensitive to sensory stimulations

Getting Treatment 

As soon as a diagnosis has been made, getting treatment for your child with autism is essential. The sooner a diagnosis has been made, and you start treatment for your child, the better they'll be equipped to handle their condition as they grow older.

Research shows that early intervention, which can begin as soon as the child is three years old, will help with the child's emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development. 

Treatment for autism typically involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Your child will be taught tools to help them cope with their symptoms better in therapy. This education shouldn't end after the therapy session. You can ask your therapist to show you ways to continue supporting your child outside of a therapy room. 

Tips for Caring for Someone With Autism 

Here are some tips you should know to help care for someone with autism:

  • Learn how to communicate with them: For many autistic people, communication can be challenging. Some autistic children are even non-verbal, so you have to develop creative ways to communicate with them. Many autistic children do well with visual communication. 
  • Be patient: Patience is vital when caring for a person with autism. Their social and communication skills are often underdeveloped, and it can be hard to get through to them. 
  • Create a schedule and stick to it: Autistic children benefit significantly from a structured schedule. Any deviation to the schedule could throw them off. Autistic children tend to thrive with a consistent schedule. Stick to consistent bedtimes and mealtimes. If there's going to be a change in the schedule, you should inform your child beforehand. 
  • Schedule time for play: In between school and therapy, autistic children can easily get swamped. It's a great idea to schedule a time to unwind and play. It can be a little tricky figuring out what your autistic child likes to do for fun, as they are unlikely to unwind like other kids. 

Where to Get Information 

Arming yourself with the appropriate knowledge to help your child with autism is essential. Unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there.

It would be best if you only sourced information from reliable sources that will provide you with accurate information. Autism Society of America and the National Autism Association are organizations that provide reliable information and resources about the condition.

The Disabilities Education Act provides children with conditions like autism access to free and low-cost health services. This law allows for your autistic child to be able to get access to evaluations, medication, therapy, and specialized devices either for free or at a very low cost. Under the act, children below the age of ten don't need to have been given an official diagnosis of autism before accessing these services.

If you observe your child is displaying symptoms of autism or a developmental disorder, you can take advantage of this law. 

Caring for Yourself 

Parents often struggle with finding time to take care of themselves. This can become even more difficult when parenting autistic children.

Research shows that parents of autistic children often find it challenging to combine caregiving with their daily activities.However, taking care of yourself and preventing burnout is vital to give your child the best help. Taking care of a person with autism can be emotionally and physically demanding. This is why self-care is also essential.

  • Practice self-care: Practicing self-care might seem indulgent, but you might be underestimating how powerful it can be. If you have a busy schedule, you can start small. Take a 10-minute walk in the morning, or soak in the bathtub for fifteen minutes at the end of a long day. 
  • Join a support group: Joining a support group with other parents of autistic children can help you feel less alone. Simply talking to people who understand and empathize with your struggles can feel good. Making time to attend a support group in person can be tricky, so that you can sign up for a virtual support group.
  • Ask for help: Don't be embarrassed to reach out to your support system to ask for help. They can help with babysitting when you need some time to yourself or getting resources that can better equip you to care for your autistic child.
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6 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism. December 2, 2021

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders. March 29, 2021

  3. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Early Intervention for Autism. April 19, 2021

  4. University of Rochester Medical Center. Interacting with a child who has autism spectrum disorder. 2021.

  5. US Department of Education. About IDEA.

  6. Hoefman R, Payakachat N, van Exel J, et al. Caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder and parents’ quality of life: application of the carerqol. Journal of Autism Development Disorder. 2014;44(8):1933-1945.