AutismHow to help your child with day to day life

How to help your child communicate

Do

  • 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)
  • read more tips on communicating with your child from the National Autistic Society

Don't

  • 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"

Dealing with anxiety

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.

The National Autistic Society directory has a list of counsellors specialising in 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.

Eating difficulties

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.

The National Autistic Society has more about how to help with eating problems.

Problems sleeping

Many autistic children find it hard to get to sleep, or wake up several times during the night.

This may be because of:

  • anxiety
  • 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.

Get more healthy sleep tips for children

Staying healthy

It's important that your child has regular check-ups with the:

  • dentist
  • optician
  • 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.

Find out more ways to stay healthy from the National Autistic Society.

Friendships and socialising

Some autistic children find it hard to make friends.

There are some things you can do to help:

Do

  • 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
  • join local social groups that are autism friendly
  • read more advice about making friends from Ambitious about Autism

Don't

  • 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

Page last reviewed: 18/04/2019
Next review due: 18/04/2022