AutismLiving with autism

There's no 'cure' for autism, but there are ways to support autistic people, their families, carers and friends.

There's no 'cure' for autism, but there are ways to support autistic people, their families, carers and friends.

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how people understand and interact with the world around them, including how they communicate with other people.

Support for autistic people and their families is designed to help understand their differences, improve communication, and provide help with their educational and social development.

It can be difficult to know what type of support will work best for you or your child because each autistic person is different.

The National Autistic Society website has information about the many different support strategies available for autistic people.

This page covers support and advice for children.

Find out about the support available for autistic adults

Support for autistic children

The detailed assessment, management, and care and support for your child should involve local specialist community-based multidisciplinary teams (sometimes called "local autism teams") working together.

The team may include:

  • a paediatrician
  • mental health specialists, such as a psychologist and psychiatrist
  • a learning disability specialist (if appropriate)
  • a speech and language therapist
  • an occupational therapist
  • education and social services representatives from your local council

Every child or young person diagnosed with autism should have a case manager or key worker to manage and co-ordinate their care and support, as well as their transition into adult care.

How to help an autistic child

The parents of an autistic child play a crucial role in supporting them and improving their skills.

If your child is autistic, it's a good idea to find out as much as you can about autism.

The National Autistic Society website provides useful information and advice for parents, relatives and carers.

Helpful interventions

Some interventions can help your child's development.

These include:

  • communication skills – such as using pictures, sign language or both to help communicate as speech and language skills can be significantly delayed
  • social interaction skills – play-based strategies, comic strips and some computer-based interventions can help
  • imaginative play skills – such as encouraging pretend play
  • learning skills – such as pre-learning skills to help concentration, reading, writing and maths

How to communicate with your autistic child

Communication can be particularly difficult for autistic children and young people.

Helping them communicate can reduce anxiety and the risk of behaviour that may be difficult or challenging.

Try these tips when interacting with your child:

  • use your child's name so they know you're addressing them
  • keep background noise to a minimum
  • for some autistic children, it can help if you keep language simple and literal
  • speak slowly and clearly
  • some parents find it useful to accompany what they say with simple gestures or pictures
  • allow extra time for your child to process what you have said

The National Autistic Society has more useful tips on communication.

Support for parents and carers

Detailed advice and support programmes are available for parents of children recently diagnosed with autism.

For example, the EarlyBird programme provided by the National Autistic Society is a free 3-month course for parents of an autistic child under the age of 5.

The programme supports parents, and offers practical advice about looking after their child and helping them improve their skills.

EarlyBird Plus is for parents of autistic children who are 4 to 9 years of age.

The programme aims to address the child's needs both at home and at school by training parents and carers, together with a professional who regularly works with their child.

EarlyBird and EarlyBird Plus programmes are run by licensed teams and are available in most parts of the UK.

Find out if there's a team in your area or call 01226 779 218.

Joint a forum or support group

Online forums and local support groups are a good way to share your experiences of caring for an autistic child or young person, as well as reading about what others are going through.

The National Autistic Society's Community has forums for parents and carers, as well as for autistic adults.

Remember that comments on forums or other social media are often based on personal experience and should not be taken as medical advice.

Always check with your autism team before changing how you support your autistic child.

Need more information?

You can find local and national services for families on the National Autistic Society's Autism Services Directory.

The charity also has detailed information on benefits and support from social care, education and what to expect when your child changes or leaves school.

Help for behaviour that may be seen as challenging

It's important to remember that behaviour is a way of communicating.

If an autistic child or young person is behaving in a challenging way and this is affecting family life, ask for help and support from a GP or another healthcare professional.

A GP or another healthcare professional will check for things that may be causing your child to behave in a challenging way.

They'll check:

  • teeth
  • ears or hearing
  • digestion
  • pain in an area a child or young person cannot point to

If the GP thinks the person may have anxiety problems, they may recommend mental health support, such as talking therapies.

Find out more about talking therapies

Medicines

Medicines may sometimes be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms or conditions associated with autism.

For example:

These medicines can have significant side effects and should only be prescribed by a doctor who specialises in the condition being treated.

If medicine is offered, the autistic person will have regular check-ups to assess whether it's working.

Find out more about stopping over medication of people with a learning disability, autism or both (STOMP)

'Treatments' that are not recommended

A number of alternative treatments for autism have been suggested. But there's no evidence to support them. And some are dangerous.

Potentially harmful "treatments" for autism include:

  • neurofeedback – where brain activity is monitored (usually by placing electrodes on the head) and the person being treated can see their brain activity on a screen and is taught how to change it
  • auditory integration training – a therapy that involves listening to music that varies in tone, pitch and volume
  • chelation therapy – this uses medication or other agents to remove metal (in particular, mercury) from the body
  • bleaching – sometimes called CD (chlorine dioxide) or MMS (Mineral Miracle Solution)
  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy – treatment with oxygen in a pressurised chamber
  • facilitated communication – where a therapist or another person supports and guides a person's hand or arm while using a device such as a computer keyboard or mouse

Find out more about harmful treatments on the National Autistic Society website

Page last reviewed: 03/02/2019
Next review due: 03/02/2022