Caring for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
What is ASD, autism and Asperger's syndrome?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects the way your child relates to their environment and other people.
Learning how to care for a child with ASD, and knowing where to get help, can make things easier for you, and your child.
The term ASD is used for:
- Asperger’s syndrome
- pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified
The term ASD is used to stress that autism presents differently in different people.
ASD is neurodevelopmental disability (brain difference). ASD affects each person differently. Your child’s experience of ASD may vary each day, depending on different factors. The best therapy for your child will come in the form of tailored treatment.
Children with ASD have difficulties with:
- social communication and interaction
- restricted, repetitive behaviours and/or interests
The signs and symptoms of ASD vary between individuals. It is important to remember that problems may also appear differently in boys and girls.
Boys are often diagnosed with autism based on:
- limited speech
- lack of interest in imagination play
- aggression when overwhelmed
- difficulty socialising
Girls with autism are often undiagnosed. Common traits in autistic girls include:
- strong speech skills
- creative interests and imagination
- shy or passive behaviour when overwhelmed
- mimicking others in social situations
People are usually born with these problems. But they become more obvious as your child grows. People don’t know what causes ASD but research suggests that genes play a strong part.
What to do if your child is diagnosed with ASD
If your child has ASD, it is important to get help and support as soon as possible.
What is early intervention?
It is important to watch for different signs of autism in both boys and girls. Early diagnosis will help your child get support for a good quality of life.
A tailored early intervention program can help your child to communicate better and become less frustrated. Early childhood intervention offers intensive therapy tailored to support your child to develop. It can also help your child reduce difficult behaviour, and cope better as an individual and at childcare and school.
Your child might benefit from:
- speech and language therapy, to help them communicate better
- occupational therapy, to help them take part in everyday activities
- psychological therapy, to help with social skills and regulating emotions and stress
- support to ease the transition to school
It’s good if parents and carers can work as part of a team with the health professionals.
How to care for a child with ASD
Caring for a child with ASD can be rewarding but also challenging. If your child has brothers and/or sisters, it can affect them in both positive and negative ways.
The most important thing is that you get help and support to understand your child’s needs and difference and learn how you can grow together as a family. There are parenting programs that help you understand your child. You may want to join support groups like Autism Spectrum Australia and Autism Awareness Australia.
As your child grows older, they may need more or different support. Choosing a school can be difficult, but remember your child has the same rights to education as all other children.
You can apply for financial support to help with the costs of therapy through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). You may also be able to get financial help as a carer.
Funding is available through both state and federal government funds.
What help is available?
The following groups provide support for parents of children with ASD.
- Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) provides information, diagnostic assessment, and intervention. Call 1800 277 328.
- Every state and territory has an autism association.
For advice or emotional support, talk to a Pregnancy Birth and Baby maternity childcare nurse on 1800 882 436.
Resources and support
These websites have more information about children and autism:
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: June 2022