How to help your child communicate
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, eye contact and pictures or symbols to support what you're saying
allow extra time for your child to understand what you have said
ask your 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 in a noisy or crowded place
try not to say things that could have more than 1 meaning, such as "pull your socks up" or "break a leg"
Dealing with anxiety
Anxiety affects a lot of autistic children and adults. It can be caused by not being able to make sense of things going on around them, and feeling misunderstood or unaccepted by people who are not autistic.
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
- difficulty identifying, understanding or managing their feelings
- 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 GP about therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which may help.
Search The National Autistic Society's directory for counsellors experienced in helping people with autism and read more about managing anxiety.
Helping with your child's behaviour
Some autistic children have behaviours such as:
- 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 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
- eat things which are not food (called pica)
- have problems with coughing or choking while eating
- be constipated, so they feel full even when they have not eaten much food
It may help to keep a food diary, including what, where and when your child eats. This can help you notice any common issues your child has.
Speak to a GP or your autism 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
- issues such as hyperactivity or a health condition that affects sleep
You can help your child by:
- keeping a sleep diary of how your child sleeps to help you notice any common issues
- following the same bedtime routine
- making sure their bedroom is dark and quiet
- letting them wear ear plugs if it helps
- talking to a GP about how to manage health conditions that make sleep difficult, such as a food sensitivity or breathing problem
If these tips do not help, talk to your autism team about creating a sleep plan to help your child's sleep behaviour.
If your child's sleep does not get better, a GP might refer you to a paediatrician or child psychiatrist with experience of autism who can prescribe a medicine called melatonin to help your child 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 autism forums and local support groups
ask your child's school if they can help
ask your autism team how to help your child communicate and socialise
search the National Autism Society directory for local social groups that are autism-friendly
do not put 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