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Tips for Parents on Dealing with Autism

By: Elizabeth M. Felder, MD

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.


Dealing with autism can be very difficult, whether your child has just received a new diagnosis or if you and your family have been dealing with this condition for a while. Through research, Google searches and life experience, I have come across some strategies that can help you and your family cope with the challenges of dealing with autism:

  • Focus on your child, not the diagnosis.
    Each child is a unique individual. Autism is a large part of your child’s personality, but they have other personality traits, too. You concentrated on the problems that your child has in order to get to this point. Now it is time to look at what your child does well. Love them for their strengths. See the world through their eyes, and appreciate their point of view.
  • Celebrate small successes.
    Love your child, and take pride in each small accomplishment. When you can rejoice in things like better eye contact or the rare day with no meltdowns, your outlook will improve, and it will encourage your child. Focus on what they can do instead of comparing them with a typically developing child. Love them for who they are rather than what they should be.
  • Go out in public.
    There are many times when you can’t avoid running errands with your children. Make your trips as short as possible. Bring a favorite comfort item. Talk to your child. Keeping them focused on you may help distract them from the overwhelming sensory input. Avoid tantrum triggers. If you know that they cannot leave the store without a certain box of cereal, and you already have four boxes at home, don’t go near the cereal aisle. If the trigger item is on the impulse rack at the checkout counter, many stores will be glad to check you out at the service desk to avoid a disturbance. Gradually, as your child gets used to the store and matures in social skills, you will be able to stay for longer shopping trips.
  • Spend quality time with your other children.
    Your other children need you, too. All children need one-on-one time with their parents. Brothers and sisters of autistic children often feel left out or ignored because the child with autism needs so much help. Your other children need your support. They need to learn how to be happy in spite of the circumstances. It will also help you feel closer to them.
  • Spend time alone with your spouse.
    Marriages are challenged when faced with the difficulties of parenting a special needs child. You and your spouse need time to reconnect and just be a couple. You are much stronger and better parents if your relationship is healthy. You are better able take care of the family if you are both on the same page. If you are a single parent, winging this on your own, the next tip is especially for you.
  • Take advantage of friends and family for breaks.
    Caring for a child with autism is stressful and exhausting. You need time to rest and recharge. You are calmer and more patient when you are not tired. You can take care of your child much better if you take care of yourself, too.
  • Find a good babysitter you trust. One who understands your child and understands how to work with autistic children.
    When friends and family are not available, you need someone you can trust. If you are worried about your children, you cannot fully enjoy your free time. When you are sure that they are being well cared for, you can focus on other things. Also look for respite care programs that offer child care services.
  • Connect with support groups.
    Support groups can be great sources for information about what services are available in your area and who provides them. It is comforting to connect with other families who are going through the same challenges. Their advice can be very helpful. Through support groups, families can share their problems, as well as solutions that have worked for them. This can be a great way for families to find valuable hope, comfort and encouragement.

Having a child with autism can be life changing; but like with any other child, it can be rewarding. Patience and a positive mindset go a long way when caring for a special needs child. How you, as their caregiver, choose to deal with their autism sets the stage for how the rest of your family deals with it. It is important that the entire family understands and accepts that, albeit challenging, living with an autistic child is not a burden; it’s simply a different kind of normal.

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.