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What does autism look like?

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What does autism look like?

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There are some common types of behaviour for children with autism that you might see in your child too. There are some things you can do to help them – and yourself – while your child is showing these behaviours.


Common types of behaviour in autistic children 

Some autistic children may behave in ways that place you and your family under a lot of strain. These behaviours include: 

  • Stimming- a kind of repetitive behaviour  
  • Meltdowns- a complete loss of control over behaviour  


Stimming stands for “self-stimulating behaviour.” Common stimming behaviours include:  

  • Rocking, jumping, spinning, head-banging 
  • Hand-flapping, finger-flicking, flicking rubber bands 
  • Repeating words, phrases or sounds 
  • Staring at lights or spinning objects. 

Stimming is usually harmless. It may look odd to others, but there is no need to stop it if it is not causing any problems for you and your child.  



Meltdowns are a complete loss of control caused by being totally overwhelmed.  

If your child has a meltdown, the most important thing to do is try to stay calm and keep them safe. If you are worried you child might hurt themselves, try to hold them to keep them safe.  

It is not always possible to prevent meltdowns, but there are some things you can do that might help.  These include: 

  • Letting your child wear headphones to listen to calming music 
  • Turning down or removing bright lights  
  • Planning ahead for any change in routine, such as a different route to school. 
  • It may help to keep a diary for a few weeks to see if you can spot any meltdown triggers that you can do something about.  

These behaviours can be hard to deal with but remember, all autistic children are different and not every day will be challenging or stressful.  


How autism can affect you and your family 

Having an autistic child can put a lot of strain on you and your family. You might need to spend a lot of time helping your child and it may be hard to make time for the rest of your family.  


Things that can help you and your family  

  • Ask friends and family if they can help with day-to-day things or just be there to talk to 
  • Get advice from other parents of autistic children or adults – see here how to find support 
  • Think about doing a course for parents of autistic children e.g. EarlyBird course  from the National Autistic Society 
  • Ask your local council for a carer’s assessment– you may be able to get extra support and financial benefits. 


Supporting your other children 

Some children can find it hard if their brother or sister is autistic. There are some things you can do to help them: 

  • Making time for them whenever you can- try to do some activities with just them if possible 
  • Explain what is going on and ask if they have any questions or worries and try to comfort them 
  • Let them have time on their own or with friends 
  • Check the advice on Sibs, a charity for siblings of disabled children 

This information was adapted from

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