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What Are the Needs of a Child With Autism?

What are the needs of a child with autism? A family with two parents and three children sit together happily on the grass.
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Have you ever wondered, “What are the needs of a child with autism?” As a licensed practitioner working with children, I see this question echoed in the eyes of many parents. You’re not alone in this journey; I am here to clarify. In this blog post, we will explore the unique needs of a child with autism, focusing on areas such as social interaction, communication, and sensory experiences.

Structure: The Backbone of a Child’s Day

Just like the sturdy framework of a house, the structure provides a sense of security for children with autism. Regular schedules for meals, therapy, school, and bedtime can help anchor their day. Predictability can reduce anxiety and meltdowns. It’s like having a reliable roadmap for the day. You know where you’re going, and so does your child.

Of course, life doesn’t always stick to a schedule, and that’s okay. The key is to prepare your child for changes whenever possible. A sudden change of plans can be like taking a detour on a road trip. With a little heads-up, you can navigate the new route together.

Instructional Support: Visuals Over Verbal

Remember the last time you assembled a piece of furniture? Did you prefer the written instructions or the diagrams? For children with autism, pictures and demonstrations often speak louder than words. Long verbal instructions can be overwhelming. It’s like trying to listen to a radio station with a lot of static. Visual cues and written instructions can provide a clearer signal.

For example, if you’re teaching a new skill, consider using a visual schedule or a step-by-step picture guide. It can make the process more understandable and less intimidating. After all, isn’t it easier to follow a recipe with pictures?

What are the needs of a child with autism? A teacher sits with his student as they look at teaching tools.
Read more: How to Parent a Child With Autism

Coping Strategies: Tools for Calm

Imagine you’re in a noisy, crowded room. It’s hot, and the lights are too bright. You’re feeling overwhelmed. What do you do? You could step outside for some fresh air, or put on your favorite song to drown out the noise. These are coping strategies, and they’re just as essential for children with autism.

Rocking in a chair, deep breathing, listening to music, or brief periods of exercise can help your child manage sensory overload. It’s like having a personal toolkit for dealing with stress. And just like any toolkit, it’s most effective when customized for the individual. Some kids might find drawing calming, while others might prefer a quiet space with soft lighting.

Self-Help Skills: Fostering Independence

Brushing teeth, washing hands, making a snack – these self-help skills are stepping stones towards independence for any child. For kids with autism, these skills can be taught and reinforced through Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) sessions. It’s a bit like learning a dance routine. With practice and repetition, the steps become more familiar.

Remember, progress might be slow, and that’s perfectly fine. Celebrate the small victories – the first time they brush their teeth alone or the day they prepare their own breakfast. These moments are milestones in their journey towards independence.

What are the needs of a child with autism? Two parents and their child talk with a special educator.
Read more: Where to Find Autism Parent Support Groups

Safety: The Need for Stability

People with autism need an organized environment and clear expectations. It’s like having a well-lit path in a dark forest. The path provides a sense of direction and safety. Similarly, providing information about what to expect in new situations or giving them time to process information can help kids with autism feel more secure.

For instance, if you plan a family outing, talk to your child about it. Discuss the activities, the people they might meet, and how long you’ll be there. If possible, visit the location beforehand or show them pictures. This can help them feel more prepared and less anxious.

Acceptance: The Warmth of Being Valued

At the heart of all these strategies is one fundamental need – acceptance. Children with autism, like all kids, want to feel valued and celebrated. It’s the warmth of a hug, the joy of shared laughter, the comfort of knowing you’re loved just as you are. They want to know that people believe they’re doing their best.

Interacting with them with dignity and understanding can foster a sense of self-esteem and belonging. After all, isn’t that what we all seek – to be accepted and loved for who we are?

Goally | Visual Scheduler for Autism

Does your child struggle with getting ready in the morning independently? Goally’s routine app on the best tablet for kids breaks down large tasks into small, achievable steps for autistic kids. Create custom routines with your own videos & pictures for every step.


Understanding the needs of a child with autism can open doors to a world of growth and fulfillment for both you and your child. Remember, every child is unique, and so are their needs. It’s a learning and adapting journey filled with challenges, victories, and countless moments of joy. So, take a deep breath, embrace the journey, and know you’re doing an incredible job.


  • Autism Speaks – A comprehensive resource offering information on autism, support services, and the latest research.
  • Autism Society – Offers community-based solutions and support for individuals with autism and their families.
  • National Institute of Mental Health – Provides detailed information on autism spectrum disorders, including symptoms, treatments, and how to find help.

FAQs About the Needs of a Child With Autism

What is the importance of routine for a child with autism?
Routines provide predictability and security for children with autism, significantly reducing their anxiety and confusion.
How can visual schedules help a child with autism?
Visual schedules can visually represent the sequence of activities in a child's day, making transitions easier and reducing anxiety for children with autism.
What are sensory issues in children with autism?
Sensory issues in children with autism can include difficulty processing information from senses such as sight and sound, often leading to overstimulation and potential meltdowns.
How can parents create a safe environment at home for a child with autism?
Parents can create a safe environment for a child with autism by managing sensory stimuli, establishing structured routines, and using learning tools like visual schedules and emotional regulation apps.
What role do emotional regulation apps play in supporting a child with autism?
Emotional regulation apps can help a child with autism recognize and manage their emotions effectively, contributing to their overall wellbeing and development.

This post was originally published on March 31, 2023. It was updated on March 12, 2024

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