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Caring for a child with autism

4-minute read

Autism is a condition that affects the way a child relates to their environment and other people. Learning how to care for a child with autism, and knowing where to get help, can make things easier for parents and carers, and most of all for the child.

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that includes all the different types of disorder. However, often ASD is simply referred to as 'autism'.

What is autism?

Children with autism have a disability that affects the brain. For some children, that disability is mild. For others, it is severe.

The term “spectrum” is used to emphasise that autism presents differently in every single person. People with autism have a wide range of challenges as well as abilities.

Children with autism might have many abilities and interests that are unaffected by autism.

But many children with autism have problems with:

These problems are usually present from birth but become more apparent in the first three years of life and continue throughout adulthood. People don’t know what causes autism but research suggests that genes play a strong part.

Features of autism

You might wonder about autism in your young child if they:

Learn more about child development. Visit the healthdirect website for more information on autism.

What to do if your child is diagnosed with autism

First, remember that all children with autism are different, in the way that all adults with heart disease are different. A commonly used catch-phrase is that if you have seen one child with autism, you have seen one child with autism.

If your doctor thinks your child might have autism, they may refer you to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children) so you can get more information and get some help. The paediatrician will do a series of tests. If your child is diagnosed with autism they will advise you about early intervention therapies and services that might help your child.

Autism can have a big impact on you, other children, and family life. It's important that you work with health and disability professionals to reduce these impacts, and that they are willing to work with you. You need an effective management and treatment plan that works for everyone.

How to care for a child with autism

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. Children with autism often find it hard to understand simple instructions and social behaviour.

Particular treatments include:

The most important thing is that you get the help and support you need to manage life every day.

There are programs available that teach skills for parents of children with autism. There is also support from groups like Autism Spectrum Australia, Autism Awareness Australia and autism associations.

As children with autism grow older they may need more treatment. Choosing a school can be difficult, but your child has the same rights to education as all other children.

What help is available?

Learn more about disability and parenting support.

More information

The following websites have more information about young children and autism:

Check your symptoms Find a health service

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