Living with autism

Sad little boy
How can you help a child with autism? We look at the different kinds of treatments available.

Children with autism are not all alike. In fact, they’re as different from each other as any other children. There is an ‘autistic spectrum' and children may be on different points of it. Also, some children have difficulties alongside their autism, which may affect their education and their overall emotional and social development.

Other autistic children may be able to learn as well as, or even better than, children of the same age who don't have autism. Occasionally a child with autism may truly shine at one or two particular subjects such as maths, music or art.

Autism affects the ability and desire to connect with other people. It may or may not be obvious to people outside the family that a child has autism. In fact, some children with autism are not diagnosed for a long time, as the symptoms of autism are not always clear-cut.

What children with autism do have in common is serious difficulty with communication. Often this only becomes clear as they emerge from babyhood. A toddler can develop normally and then start to ‘go backwards', stopping learning to talk for instance when they had been making progress before.

Therapies for autism

There is no actual cure for autism, though some people do develop ways of living independently and overcoming some of the most problematic aspects of the condition. But the very individual nature of autism is one of the reasons why treatment or therapy is such a challenge.

Interventions for children with autism range from communication-based approaches such as PECS (Pictorial Exchange Communication System) and TEACCH (Treatment of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) to more traditional techniques. These are designed to teach basic learning skills and they include techniques such as ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis). Some more unusual approaches are exercise, swimming with dolphins, massage, and aromatherapy.

Other resources:

Call the National Autistic Society's helpline on 0845 0704004. Open Monday - Friday, 10am - 4pm.