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20 Parents' Helpful Tips For Raising Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorder

“Autistic children can learn anything and do anything with practice and patience. Don't give up on them.”

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We asked parents in the BuzzFeed Community to share their advice for raising autistic kids, but also had siblings, educators, and autistic adults sharing their advice, too. Here's all their great wisdom!

Oh, a quick note: Autism spectrum disorder will mean something different for each kid, parent, and family. And not all of these tips will be useful for everyone, so take whatever you think is useful and leave the rest.

2. Add structure to your routine by timing specific activities.

FOX / Via

"My now-teenage child was given a diagnosis for PDDNOS (pervasive developmental delay, not otherwise specified) at 3 years old, which means that there are many identified symptoms but not enough or at a severity to give an Asperger's diagnosis.

The one thing that seems to have been the biggest help is having a timed structure to every activity, whether it's how long you expect it to take or a boundary you've set based on your child's limits. So not just saying, 'We're going to Sara's party,' but instead, 'We’re going to a birthday party for one hour, OK?' You can even give them a specific time, like from 1:30 to 2:30. Or, if you're going grocery shopping and it takes 45 minutes, say so, and stick to it as much as possible.

Also saying how much time is remaining is immensely helpful with meltdowns related to change. Knowing there’s five minutes left to play gives time to wind down the play, so that you didn't have to stop abruptly in the middle of it."



3. But also remember to be flexible when something unexpected comes up.

TV Land / Via

"It's a delicate balance between following the routine and staying flexible. What I've learned the most is to follow their lead. Sometimes we have a ton of errands to run but they're just not having a good day, so we don't do it. Allowing them to be able to say when they can't handle something and respecting that makes all the difference in the world."


4. Try teaching them to recognize when they need a break, and let them do that whenever they need it.

@autismspeaks / Via

"My two boys are on the spectrum and are both high-functioning. The best advice I can give is the importance of teaching your child to recognize when they're about to melt down and being able to pull themselves out of the situation. It's so much easier when my children can look at me and say, 'I need a break.' Together, we've established areas (wherever we are) where they can go to get away from all the social stimulation. I’ve learned to let them go even if something important is happening, and they also know that if it becomes too much, they're allowed to pull out and not be questioned or judged."


5. Don't compare your child's abilities to others.

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"As hard as it may be, remember to not compare your child to other kids. It can be hard seeing a kid the same age, or younger, that's able to do more. So please try not to compare. No good comes from it."


6. Appreciate the way your child sees the world.

@theautismvoice / Via

"My child having autism doesn't make my life harder, just more interesting. Being able to see the world through my child's eyes has broadened my perspective on what I see as different and beautiful. Every day is an adventure that we welcome with open arms and hearts."



7. Help your child learn how to apply new skills to different situations.

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"Learning can be situational. Don't assume that because your child is able to apply a skill in one setting that it will transfer to another setting. Maybe it will in time, but you may need to teach the application of that skill in multiple situations."


8. Take interest in their interests.

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"Find what they love and use that! Use it as a reinforcer to reward and encourage progress, and use it to foster communication. My son is a water guy. We have had the most amazing conversations while he is relaxed at the beach, sitting in his chair next to me with no pressure for major eye contact, and in the water where he is relaxed and loving the waves. It's where he feels best and most comfortable and it's an easier task for him to let me join him in his moment rather than contending with expectations of the typical world where he doesn't enjoy its demand for constant eye contact and anxiety-prompting sensory overload."


9. Allow them to self-soothe.

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"If your child is stimming, let them unless there is a compelling reason to curb it. Your child needs the ability to self-soothe in whatever way works for them in order to manage overstimulation. Your child may not tolerate the feel of clothing, the texture of food, or the buzzing of fluorescent lights. And that overload is very real."


10. Never underestimate how much they actually understand.

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"I am a K–3rd grade teacher for a moderate-to-severe ASD classroom. One thing I've learned is that the kids understand SO MUCH more than they show right away. They just can't express it like we can, so when I can, I allow them to guide the play and learning. It's a very colorful place to be when you step into their world and it can lead to more communication and naturalistic teaching opportunities. They're more likely to want to learn language if it is something that piques their interest."



11. Empower them to solve their own problems.

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"My advice is this: Let them work on their problem themselves. If they need your help, they will ask for it. They are completely competent. They may get frustrated. But your love and support for the child who has an ASD will help them a lot more than you doing it for them."


12. Listen to them calmly and with an open mind.

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"My 4-year-old daughter is on the spectrum. Trying to force her to do something she is resisting is futile and will only result in a worse meltdown. Try to stop, breathe, release some of the frustration, and get your child to help you understand why they are resisting. Other parents and family members may think you are indulging your child too much. But I think it's very obvious that my daughter understands and sees a lot about the world and about her life, and she has very clear reasons why she is resisting or reacting to a situation. Often, they can be totally mitigated if you project calmness, understanding, and tolerance for what she's experiencing in the moment."


13. Remember that a diagnosis doesn't define your child.

@autismspeaks / Via

"My 4-year-old is on the spectrum. The first time I heard the word 'autism,' I crumbled. For days, all I saw when I looked at him was autism. Everything he did was autistic. And I felt so sad for him. It was awful. But then I realized, he's still the same kid he was before the word 'autism' entered our lives. Everything lovely and warm and kind about him was the same, everything that was challenging in our day-to-day life was the same. He wasn't a diagnosis; he was still him. And that was important for me to remember."


14. Try to laugh through all the bizarre situations you end up in.

@theautismvoice / Via

"It's okay to laugh at the bizarre situations you find yourself in, or the totally inappropriate things your child or sibling may say. Taking everything too seriously makes an already challenging situation much more difficult. I've also found that laughter puts the people around us at ease because it makes them realize that even though we have some challenges they don't, this is our normal and our lives are still wonderful!"



15. Build relationships with your child's school, and be prepared to advocate for your child's needs.

@autismspeaks / Via

"Cultivate a cooperative relationship with your schools but be prepared to take them on when necessary."


"If your kid is in public school, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Start early, be informed, and don't assume the school knows what's best. The majority of schools I've dealt with have no clue what the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is, or what they are required to provide."


16. Look into whether Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is a possibility for your family.

@intothespectrum / Via

"My twins were diagnosed with ASD and Baby A was always my withdrawn kid. We had a year where I cried almost every day because he would not cooperate with anything, even eating. Even his physical therapist had to put off sessions because he simply would not cooperate. After I tried ABA he rarely melts down, even during school breaks. We have conversations. Real conversations. We had a lot of bad days but now we have many more good days. Keep trying to get in! It is so worth it."


Learn more about ABA therapy here.

17. But also know that ABA isn't for everybody (and isn't necessarily possible for everybody).

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"They don't always need ABA therapy, even though everyone will push it on you. Sometimes just occupational therapy or play-based therapy that has sensory integration is very helpful. Love your child and teach others to accept them for who they are. Don't try to change them so that they'll be 'neurotypical.'"


18. Keep up on all the research about autism.

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"My son is 12 years old and has Asperger's syndrome. I have learned so much from parenting a child on the spectrum. There's never too much research one can do on the spectrum. Science gains more and more of a hold on what exactly autism is, how it happens, and how to treat it. There are new studies coming out almost daily which have information that could help me understand what is going on with my child."



19. Know when you need to take a break, and have people around who can support you.

VH1 / Via

"Know your buttons and limits. Share them with the people in your life so they can help when you need to step back. Children on the spectrum have many buttons and quirks, but so do the people who take care of them. It's hard to tell someone, 'I need to take a minute,' when dealing with your own child. But trust me, it does not make you a failure; it makes you a success. Make sure your child is safe, take a minute, regroup, and come back.

One of my buttons is being spit on, and my partner knows that. Every time I get spit at, he looks at me and says, 'Go. I'll be alright for a minute.' I pull myself together and come back when I'm calm. Acting in anger, or — god forbid — vengeance, will always end in disaster."


"Find some GOOD friends. Ones that will listen when you have really terrible days."


20. And finally, remember that other people's opinions of you or your kid aren't actually important at all.

NBC / Via

"As a sibling of someone with autism, remember that embarrassment is pointless. If they have a fit in public, get through the episode and ignore everyone around you. Their opinion isn't important."


Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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