Top 10 tips to work with autistic children | Carepatron

By Jamie Frew on Jun 20, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disorder; the symptoms of which, as the name suggests, fall along a wide spectrum from mild to severely impairing. ASD can manifest very differently across different children, and the symptoms may change or progress over time. 

While there are many resources designed specifically for working with children, such as anger management activities for kids or emotional regulation activities for kids, children with ASD may require some unique considerations in order to reach their potential. 

If you are feeling apprehensive about your ability to work with a child on the autistic spectrum and provide them with the best care possible, just keep on reading for some handy tips on how to rise to the challenge.

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Characteristics of autism spectrum disorders

While there is a wide variety of ways ASD can manifest itself, there are some common characteristics across the spectrum of autism disorders. 

Social skills and communication challenges

Issues with communication can manifest as trouble holding eye contact, understanding facial expressions, or difficulty managing usual conversational back-and-forth. Children may also fail to notice if other children are hurt or upset and prefer to play alone than join others. 

Developmental delays

Skills that may present as delayed in children with ASD include spoken language, movement, and fine motor skills, often requiring intervention from occupational therapy and speech-language pathology.

Restricted or repetitive behavior

The child's behaviour will include repeating words (echolalia), or repetitive gestures such as hand flapping or touching objects. Children may also display intense interest in comparatively uncommon topics or subjects, or use strange speech patterns or phrases, 

For children or teens who don't demonstrate these common ASD characteristics, you might want to check out our therapeutic activities for teens and kids, but for a more specialized guide, take a look at our parent and teachers' guide to supporting children with ASD below.

A parents'/teacher's guide to autism support

While working closely with or parenting a child with ASD will come with unique challenges, there is guidance out there backed by scientific research that can help you have the best impact on children with autism. 

Firstly, early intervention is key. For children with ASD, the younger they begin behavioral therapy or treatment, the greater their chances for success in the future. You do not need to wait for a formal diagnosis, and the diagnosis process can often be time-consuming anyway. As such, work to educate yourself on autism spectrum disorders, and research the various different treatment approaches early.

Working with autistic children, particularly for a parent, can be emotional at times, so be sure you are looking after yourself as well. Support groups, counseling, or taking a respite are all great options if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Top 10 tips to work with autistic children

Engaging children with ASD is crucial for their learning and development. By understanding their unique needs and creating a supportive environment, you can help them thrive.

Here are some top tips to work effectively with autistic children:

Use technology to your benefit

Technology has risen to meet the needs of ASD children and their families, and there is now a wealth of assistive technology, learning apps and games out there. In fact, the volume of resources available can be overwhelming so we recommend going off recommendations from other parents, behavioral therapists, or health organizations in your area.

Additionally, for older kids, there is a wealth of resources available on the internet designed to help them continue their progress, like our coping skills worksheet for kids.

Capitalize on strong interests

The common characteristic of children with ASD to have deep interests in specific topics can be a huge advantage for their learning, as well as for motivating them to work with you, whether that is in their schooling, behavioral therapy, or just in day-to-day life. Rather than praising or rewarding them with the same tools you would use with non-ASD kids, use rewards based on their interests to keep them engaged.

Try to lower distractions

Background music, noisy classrooms, bright lights and colors, all of these things can be distracting for anyone, but for children with ASD, they can be serious barriers to learning. Try to reduce distractions for your kids with ASD to provide a quiet and supportive environment conducive to their success. 

Stick to a routine

Having a predictable structure to their day can help prepare children with ASD to thrive. A daily routine should include different activities to let the child sleep, play, study, and do other activities. Having a structured routine can also continue into school or therapy activities by ensuring the child knows what they will be doing, for how long, and what will happen afterward.

Having consistency in this manner will help the child feel comfortable and prepared for the tasks ahead of them.

Share success

When you and your child find something that is effective, share it! Let the child's teachers, parents, therapists, and anyone else who works with the child know any strategies that you found particularly helpful so they can employ the strategies in their work too. This has the added benefit of increasing consistency across the child's day, and reinforcing success!

Use visual aids wherever possible

Line drawings, photographs, or picture cards can all be incredibly useful tools for aiding your child's understanding. or kids who can read, writing down what you say as you say it can also help reinforce verbal instructions and enhance their communication skills.

Encourage social interactions

Many autistic children may naturally be uninterested in social interactions, but it is crucial that they are constantly encouraged and helped in developing social skills that will help them in later life. As a teacher, creating a safe classroom space that will allow preschool children with ASD to practice their social skills with others can make all the difference. You can also help them with pretend play.

Give them extra time

Rushing a child with ASD to understand something you have said is only going to add stress and ultimately slow down progress for both of you. Be patient and allow children the time they need to process at their own pace. It can be tempting to rephrase a statement or repeat it if the child does not respond immediately, but this can be confusing and cause a child with ASD to need to start reprocessing what you said all over again. 

Keep instructions simple

Ensure the language that you use is concrete rather than figurative or metaphorical, as kids with ASD can find these language devices confusing rather than helpful. Speak clearly and simply to help the child understand what you want from them, and remember to utilize visual aids wherever you can. 

Create a home safety zone

Any child needs to feel safe in their home, and children with ASD are no different. Take the time to ensure the home is well-suited to the child's needs. This will look different for every child, but could include making a quiet room, marking out spaces visually with tape, or labeling items with pictures or visual aids.

Rise to the challenge

In conclusion, working with children with ASD can certainly be a challenge—but one that as a parent or teacher, you can rise to. With the right knowledge, tools, and support team, your child can reach their potential and be given the best possible foundation for life's challenges. 

We hope that this article has given you some confidence or helpful ideas for working with your autistic child, and remember to be patient with yourself and your child, and celebrate the small stuff! 

For the teachers or mental health workers with older kids, we recommend you check out other articles such as questions to ask during a teen therapy session or our anger management worksheet for teens. 

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