Living with autism spectrum disorder
Having ASD can make home, school and work life difficult. But putting strategies in place can help you or your child to deal with these challenges and live a fulfilling life.
Routines and coping with change
People with ASD feel safer with routines, so any change can be very stressful. Many people with ASD also have sensory difficulties – for example, being over-sensitive to loud noises or bright lights. This can make day-to-day activities such as shopping, travelling on public transport and going to the doctor or dentist really challenging. At times, these stressful situations can lead someone with ASD to completely lose control of their behaviour (sometimes known as a ‘meltdown’).
There are things you can do to help prevent this.
- Try to keep your days to a familiar structure and routine at home. For example, this might include eating meals and going out at certain times.
- For children with ASD, introduce changes in routines slowly and gradually, and try to actively involve them. You can help prepare for uncertainty by explaining different options or scenarios that may happen.
- If you are doing something or going somewhere new, take time to prepare your child beforehand. Describe what’s going to happen clearly and carefully. Using visual aids such as photos, websites and videos can be very helpful for people with ASD.
- Think about how you can manage your child’s sensory needs, both at home and when out and about. At home, it could mean changing lighting, noise levels and colours of walls or furnishings. If noise is an issue, it might mean taking headphones when going out to block out noise around you.
- Explore ways to deal with stress and anxiety. This might include having a stress ball, fidget toy or comfort object or toy with you, or listening to some calm music. This can help to keep anxiety levels down even in stressful situations.
Autism and education
If your child has ASD, letting their nursery, school or college know can help the institution to provide any extra help and support needed. Your child’s school or nursery should have a special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) to manage this.
Many children with ASD go to a mainstream school. But if your child is severely affected by ASD and needs a lot of support, a special school may be better able to provide this.
If you or your child needs more support than SENCO services can provide, you will need to apply for an Education, health and care (EHC) plan. You do this through your local authority. You can apply yourself if you’re between 16 and 25. An EHC plan identifies what support is required and the funding needed to provide these services.
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