Help for day-to-day life
use your child's name so they know you're speaking to them
keep language simple and clear
speak slowly and clearly
use simple gestures or pictures to support what you're saying
allow extra time for your child to understand what you have said
ask the autism assessment team if you can get help from a speech and language therapist (SLT)
try not to ask your child lots of questions
try not to have a conversation when it's noisy
try not to say things that could have different meanings, such as "pull your socks up" or "break a leg"
Anxiety affects a lot of autistic children and adults. It's often caused by not being able to make sense of things going on around them.
Try to find out why your child's feeling anxious.
It might be because of:
- a change in routine – it might help to prepare your child for any change, such as a change of class at school
- a noisy or brightly coloured place – it might help to take your child to a calmer place, such as another room
If your child is often anxious, ask your autism assessment team or child mental health team for a referral to a counsellor or therapist with experience of autism.
Helping with your child's behaviour
Some autistic children have behaviours like:
- stimming – a kind of repetitive behaviour (such as flapping their hands or flicking their fingers)
- meltdowns – a complete loss of control caused by being totally overwhelmed
If your child has these behaviours, read our advice about how to help with your child's behaviour.
Many children are "fussy eaters".
Autistic children may:
- only want to eat foods of a certain colour or texture
- not eat enough or eat too much
- have problems with coughing or choking while eating
- be constipated, so they feel full even when they're not
It may help to keep a food diary, including what, where and when your child eats. This can help you spot any common issues your child has.
Speak to a GP or the autism assessment team about any problems your child's having with eating.
Many autistic children find it hard to get to sleep, or wake up several times during the night.
This may be because of:
- sensitivity to the light from smartphones or tablets
- problems with the sleep hormone melatonin
You can help your child by:
- keeping a sleep diary of how your child sleeps to help you spot any common issues
- sticking to the same bedtime routine
- making sure their bedroom is dark and not noisy
- letting them wear ear plugs if it helps
If these tips do not help, talk to a GP, who may prescribe a medicine called melatonin to help your child's sleep.
It's important that your child has regular check-ups with the:
- doctors treating any other conditions your child has
Children over 14 who also have a learning disability are entitled to an annual health check.
Do not be afraid to let staff know what they can do to make it easier to go for check-ups.
Friendships and socialising
Some autistic children find it hard to make friends.
There are some things you can do to help:
get ideas from other parents on forums or local support groups
ask your child's school if they can help
ask the autism assessment team if they can help your child communicate and socialise
read more advice about making friends from Ambitious about Autism
do not put too much pressure on your child – learning social skills takes time
do not force your child into social situations if they're OK being on their own
Help with behaviour
Some autistic children may behave in ways that put a lot of strain on you and your family.
You may hear health professionals call some behaviours "challenging".
These behaviours include:
- stimming – a kind of repetitive behaviour
- meltdowns – a complete loss of control over behaviour
Some autistic children can also be physically or verbally aggressive. Their behaviour can be harmful to themselves or other people.
But remember, all autistic children are different and not every day will be challenging or stressful.
Why these behaviours happen
Many autistic children have difficulties with communication, which can affect their behaviour.
Some things that can cause these behaviours include:
- being oversensitive to things like bright lights or loud noises
- being undersensitive to things like touch or pain
- anxiety, especially when routines suddenly change
- not being able to make sense of what's going on around them
- being unwell or in pain
These behaviours are not your or your child's fault.
Stimming stands for "self-stimulating behaviour". It's a kind of repetitive behaviour.
Common stimming behaviours include:
- rocking, jumping, spinning, head-banging
- hand-flapping, finger-flicking, flicking rubber bands
- repeating words, phrases or sounds
- staring at lights or spinning objects
Stimming is usually harmless. It may look odd to others, but there's no need to stop it if it's not causing any problems for you or your child.
Ambitious about Autism has more on stimming and repetitive behaviours.
Meltdowns are a complete loss of control caused by being totally overwhelmed.
If your child has a meltdown, the most important thing is to try to stay calm and keep them safe.
If you're worried your child might hurt themselves, try to hold them to keep them safe.
It's not always possible to prevent meltdowns, but there are some things you can do that may help.
- letting your child wear headphones to listen to calming music
- turning down or removing bright lights
- planning ahead for any change in routine, such as a different route to school
It may help to keep a diary for a few weeks to see if you can spot any meltdown triggers that you can do something about.
Speak to the autism assessment team or a GP if your child is:
- stimming all the time or having lots of meltdowns
- being bullied at school because of their behaviour
- aggressive, harming themselves or harming other people
If you're struggling to cope, you may be referred to a professional who can help.
Find out more:
Help for families
Having an autistic child can put a lot of strain on you and your family.
You might need to spend a lot of time helping your child get the support they need. This can be very stressful and exhausting.
It may be hard to make time for the rest of your family and can affect your relationships with each other.
If you feel you need help, you can get support from lots of places.
Things that can help you and your family
ask friends and family if they can help with day-to-day things or just be there to talk to
get advice from other parents of autistic children or autistic adults – find out where to get support
listen to other parents' stories – the charity healthtalk.org has stories of parents of autistic children, or you can search online for blogs, videos and books
ask your local council for a carer's assessment – you might be able to get extra support and financial benefits
think about doing a course for parents of autistic children – such as the EarlyBird course from the National Autistic Society
do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself when you can – even just going for a walk on your own can help give you a break
It's your choice when you want to tell your child about their autism.
Some parents do it straight away, while others wait until their child's a bit older. There's no right or wrong time.
When you tell your child, it may help to:
- do it when they're feeling calm or relaxed
- talk to them in a place where they feel comfortable, with no distractions
- explain they do not have an illness, but they might need extra support to help them with some things
- explain they might find some things harder than other people, and some things easier
- bring them to a support group to meet other autistic children
The Autism Easyread guide from the National Autistic Society might help you explain autism in a way your child will understand.
Supporting your other children
Some children can find it hard if their brother or sister is autistic.
If you have other children, there are things you can do to help them.
make time for them whenever you can – try to do some activities with just them
talk to them about what's going on and ask if they have any questions or worries
let them have time on their own or with their friends – for example, sleepovers at friends' houses
check the advice from Sibs, a charity for siblings of disabled children
do not be afraid to involve them in things like meetings with health professionals – it can help them understand what's going on
Find out more:
One of the main decisions you'll have to make is the type of school you want your child to go to.
You'll have to decide if you think your child should go to a:
- mainstream school – a regular school, where your child may get support from special educational needs staff if they need it
- special school – a school for children with special educational needs
This can be a hard decision to make and there might not always be lots of choice where you live.
You can read advice from the National Autistic Society about:
The National Autistic Society education rights service can also give advice about school options by phone or online.
If your child can go to a mainstream school or nursery, you can help them get support if you think they need it.
1. Speak to the nursery or school
Speaking to staff at their nursery or school is the best place to start.
You could speak to:
- your child's teacher
- special educational needs (SENCO) staff, if the school has them
Talk to them about the needs you think your child has. For example, if they need help with communication, learning or social skills.
2. Ask what support your child can get
Ask the teacher or SENCO what support they can provide.
This may be things like:
- extra teaching support for your child
- different ways of teaching that are better for your child
- separate lessons to help your child improve their skills
This may be enough for some autistic children. Other children may need extra support.
3. Get extra support if your child needs it
If your child needs extra support their school does not usually provide, they'll need an education, health and care plan (EHC plan, or EHCP).
This is a document from your local council. It says what education and health needs your child has and what support they should get.
This can either help:
- the school apply for extra money so they can support your child
- you apply for a place at a school that's better for your child
Your child does not need to have been diagnosed with autism to get extra support.
- Ask your local council for an EHC assessment. The school may be able to do this for you.
- Have an assessment. The council will speak to you, the school and health professionals to work out what support your child needs.
- Get a draft plan. You can comment on the plan and add details like the type of school you want your child to go to.
- Agree the final plan.
The whole process can take a few months. Ask the school what support they can offer while it's happening.
The council may decide your child does not need an EHC assessment or plan. If this happens, they should tell you why.
If you do not agree with their decision, you have the right to appeal.
You'll be told how to do this when you hear from the council.
To get a place at a special school, your child will usually need an EHC plan.
As part of an EHC plan, you have the right to tell your council what school you'd like your child to go to.
The council can only refuse this if they think there's a clear reason why the school is unsuitable.
The charity IPSEA has more about choosing a school with an EHC plan.
Getting support for your child can be a long and complicated process.
You can get advice about it from:
- your local special educational needs advice service
- the National Autistic Society education rights service
It may also help to speak to other parents of autistic children.
Find out more:
- Ambitious about Autism: education, health and care plans
- Ambitious about Autism: appealing a decision
- National Autistic Society: education, health and care plans
Going to school can be an anxious time for any child. Some autistic children might find it very hard.
The National Autistic Society has advice about coping with:
Changing from child to adult care
Where possible, your child will be asked to be more involved in the decisions about their care from the age of 16.
When your child turns 18:
- the NHS will continue to care for their health, but they may see a different doctor or a care team for adults
- they may have to pay for some of the care they used to get for free from the council
- any support they need to help with their education will need to be provided by their college or university, if they go to one
If your child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), this will usually continue until they're 25, unless they:
- do not need support anymore
- go to university
- get a job
It's a good idea to start thinking about your child's future when they're around 14 or 15.
- speak to any doctors or care teams your child has about what happens when they turn 18
- apply for a needs assessment from your council – this may help your child get some free care and support when they're an adult
- apply for a carer's assessment if you care for your child – you may be able to get support and financial benefits
- ask colleges or universities what support they can give your child, if they're planning to go to one
If you find it hard to get support from your council
If your council decides your child does not need the same support when they turn 18, you can complain if you disagree.
Check your local council's website for information about making a complaint.
The National Autistic Society has a complaint letter template that might help.
You might also want to use an advocate (someone who helps speak up for you).
An advocate can:
- help you understand the care process and challenge decisions you disagree with
- go to meetings and write letters with you
Find out more:
Fake and harmful treatments
This is not a list of every fake autism treatment.
Always speak to a GP for advice if there's something you're not sure about. Some fake treatments can be very dangerous.
Sometimes a doctor may suggest medicines or special diets for other conditions that affect autistic people.
But there are no "treatments" or "cures" for autism itself.
These things do not work and some can be harmful:
- special diets – such as gluten-free, casein-free or ketogenic diets
- vitamins, minerals and diet supplements
- bleaching – also called chlorine dioxide (CD) or Mineral Miracle Solution (MMS)
- GcMAF – an injection made from blood cells
- medicines – including medicines to help with memory, change hormone levels or remove metal from the body (chelation)
- neurofeedback – where brain activity is checked (usually by placing sticky pads on your head) and you're taught how to change it
- hyperbaric oxygen therapy – treatment with oxygen in a pressurised chamber
How to spot fake treatments
There are some warning signs that may suggest a treatment is fake:
- it claims to "cure" or help people "recover from" autism
- it claims to work in most people and have quick results
- personal "stories" are used to claim it works, rather than medical evidence
- words like "miracle", "faith" and "trust" are used
- it can be done by anyone without any training or qualifications
- it costs a lot of money
How to report fake treatments
You can help stop people selling dangerous treatments by reporting anything you think might be fake.
For a product bought in England, Scotland or Wales, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
For a medicine you think might be fake, visit www.fakemeds.campaign.gov.uk.
For an advert for a fake treatment in the media, on a website or on social media, contact the Advertising Standards Authority.
Find out more:
Advice about medicines
If you or your child take medicines, these tips may help.
ask if there are other treatments that might help – medicine might not always be the only option
ask about the possible side effects
tell your doctor if you think the medicine is not working or is causing side effects – some medicines can work differently in autistic people
ask for regular medicine reviews – a review is a check-up to see if the medicine you're taking is still right for you or your child and is not causing any problems
read advice about problems swallowing pills if this is a problem for you or your child
do not stop taking any medicines without speaking to a doctor first – some medicines can cause serious side effects if you stop taking them suddenly
ask for an appointment at the start or end of the day – the waiting room may be less busy and you may have to wait for less time
ask for a double appointment so you're not rushed
visit before your appointment – knowing what to expect when you go for your appointment may help you or your child feel less anxious
bring someone else with you on the day if it might help
ask at reception if there's a quiet place you can wait – if not, ask if you can wait outside or in the car and if someone can call or get you when they're ready
do not worry about letting staff know how they can make things easier – you have the right to ask for simple changes to be made that may help
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