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  • Writer's pictureSharon Starkey

Caring for Someone with Autism

Everyone on the autistic spectrum is different, but they all have some degree of difficulty with social interaction, communication and imagination.

People on the autistic spectrum may therefore struggle with social activities, such as having conversations, non-verbal communication, understanding social norms, and making friends.

Another common trait of autism is displaying restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. This could manifest in needing to follow routines or rituals, or making repetitive movements.

Autism is often diagnosed alongside other conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), visual impairment, learning disabilities, epilepsy, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Down’s Syndrome, and hearing impairment. Depending on their multiple conditions and needs, some people with autism require more support than others, and can, in some cases, require care.

Autism care tips

Care for people on the spectrum usually comes from the family or host homes. It is important that the person in care is involved in the decisions regarding their care. The goal is to be as independent as possible and to have the best quality of life. Specific goals should be set with the person in care. It is important to empower them to reach those goals. Emphasis should also be placed on teaching them good communication and life skills for the future.

The hardest part, in my opinion, is understanding how to support them during the different phases of their life. It takes incredible compassion to try and feel what they feel and try to

understand the world as they know it. As their needs change, the caregiver has to be able to adapt. The most important thing is to meet their needs while encouraging them to be independent. They may need some help with self-care skills but the caregiver's job is to teach the skills toward independence. Often, I have found this to be very hard because I can do it faster myself instead of breaking things down into simple steps and walking my son through them.

It is important to remember that some skills may be difficult for those on the spectrum due to sensory difficulties. It could be the smell or the feeling of an item. This is often evident in self-help skills like brushing teeth or washing hair. Keep a record of different types of products you are using and note which ones make the person uncomfortable. It could be the

taste of a product or the feel of a cloth. Try different brands and see if there is any change in behavior.

Communicating with someone with autism

Most people on the autism spectrum have difficulty communicating. Each person is an individual so abilities will vary. Small talk is often a struggle. Some cannot express their

needs or wants. Often, they suffer from information overload. It is important to be very specific in any given instructions.

Break down the task into smaller pieces and ask for understanding. Speak slowly and use fewer words when possible. Also, allow the person time to process the information. You may need to repeat the instruction several times, which will require patience on your part. Avoid sarcasm or any idioms as well.

I have found that making lists with simple step by step instructions and posting them in sight works well with a combination of verbal prompting. For example, making a list of the steps to brushing teeth, posting them on the mirror at the sink and then prompting for the task.

Safeguarding for people with autism

It is difficult for many people on the spectrum to understand safety. They are often taken advantage of and are at a higher risk for being abused. They often don’t understand the social cues or motivations of others. This includes online activities. It is important to watch for any behavior changes because of they often have difficulty conveying their emotions and thoughts.

Often, caregivers feel uncomfortable talking about relationships and appropriate behavior with autistic children or adults. It is often assumed they will not understand. It is imperative that you have these conversations. They need to know about sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior to help them keep safe. If the caregiver does not feel comfortable discussing these things, there are plenty of books and classes that can help.

The importance of looking after yourself

Finally, it is very important that the caregiver take some time for self-care. This can be anything from getting your nails done to taking a day to yourself. Go out with your friends, go to a movie, get your hair done. Whatever it takes! Often, we as caregivers drop everything to care for our loved ones. We forget about taking time for ourselves. Our job is

demanding and often isolating. We have a lot of responsibilities, appointments to schedule, school stuff, not to mention all the household duties. You need to be able to take a break to rejuvenate yourself and remember that you are just as important! You need to be mentally and physically fit! You need to be able to sleep at night and time to relax. Make this part of

your routine!


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