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Autism is a lifelong condition. Children with autism and their families may benefit from early intervention. This can include a structured, predictable schedule. With help, many people with autism learn to cope with their condition. Most need assistance and support throughout their lives. Others are able to work and live independently when they grow up.

Making these lifestyle changes may help your child both at home and at school:

  • Follow a predictable schedule—Your child may not tolerate change or surprise well. Minimize these types of distractions.
  • Maintain a structured environment—Things being out of place can be very upsetting to a person with autism.
  • Be aware of unusual sensitivities—There is no way of knowing what a person with autism actually receives from his senses. Clothes may feel like sandpaper, broken bones may not hurt, whispers may be roars, and hugs may be painful. Normal expectations must be set aside and new rules must be adopted.
  • Avoid distractions—Slight disturbances may disrupt a person with autism from the task at hand.
  • Organize tasks—Even simple tasks may need to be broken down into small parts and directed one-at-a-time to keep the child on track. Provide visual activity schedules.
  • Use behavioral techniques—These involve rewarding desirable behaviors to increase those behaviors. Work with a behavioral therapist who can provide guidelines for you and your child. Some studies have shown that this kind of treatment may lead to improvements in language, social skills, and behavior.

When to Contact Your Doctor

You will need monitor your child's progress and provide feedback to his healthcare team and teachers. Be sure that you feel comfortable with your child's doctor and therapist. These professionals should have a lot of experience with autism. Stay in contact with this team and call them if you have any concerns.

References:

Autism 101: a free online course. The Autism Society website. Available at: http://support.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_course. Accessed May 14, 2013.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2013.

Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml. Updated May 14, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2013.

Behrman RE, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.

Dawson G, Rogers S, Munson J, et al. Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention for Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model. Pediatrics. 2010;125(1):e17-23

Goetz CG. Goetz’s Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.

Maurice C, Green G, Luce SC, eds. Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Manual for Parents and Professionals. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed; 1996.

Myers SM, Johnson CP. Management of children with autistic spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120:1162-1182.

Rapin I. An 8-year-old boy with autism. JAMA. 2001;285:1749-1757.

Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.



Last reviewed March 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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