Caring for a family member with autism

Posted: April 20, 2020

While care for someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be provided by professional services, in-home support carried out by family members is still very common. If you are currently caring for a family member with ASD, there are a number of things you can do and resources available to help make the process a little easier.

Learn about autism

Learning about autism spectrum disorder is the first and most important step in providing care for someone with autism.

ASD is a complex developmental condition affecting around 1 in 100 children in Australia. It is characterised by a number of social, developmental and behavioural challenges, which can vary considerably from person to person. Because of the spectrum of which symptoms and characteristics differ, it is especially important to understand the ways in which autism impacts the person you care for in order to provide the appropriate kind of supports.

To find out more about autism, read our Understanding Autism fact sheet.

Provide consistency and routine

While characteristics of autism change from person to person, it is very common for someone on the autism spectrum to require routine and consistency.

Consistency

If you are caring for your child who has autism, a great way to provide consistent support is by encouraging techniques that they have learnt in therapy or school in the home environment as well. This helps to reinforce learning, but also encourages them to transfer their new skills in new environments.

Routine

Many people with ASD need routines in order to cope and sudden changes to routine can be unsettling. Having consistent times for meals, showers, sleep and play can make a huge difference in managing the behaviour and anxiety of someone with autism.

When anticipating a change to routine, it is important to communicate this with the person you care for. While preparing for unexpected changes can be challenging, there are a number of tips and techniques that can help a person with ASD to to cope.

Seek support

Caring for someone with autism can be demanding. It’s normal to have days where you feel overwhelmed, lost or anxious. But it’s important to know that while these feelings are common, you don’t have to be alone.

Counselling

If you, or your family member with autism, is experiencing depression, anxiety, or just needs extra help coping with the stress of everyday life – getting therapy may be a good option.

Seeking counselling support is a great way to sustain your health and to deal with the emotional and mental pressures of being a carer. At Interaction, our psychologists specialise in providing individual and group therapy to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Find out more about Interaction’s counselling services.

Direct support and Support Coordination

Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what services are available and how to access the specific resources that your family member may need. Getting the help of a Support Coordinator makes this process easier. Support Coordinators can help in many ways from putting together an NDIS plan, to connecting you and your family member to the services they may need.

In addition to Support Coordination, Direct Support can help a person with ASD to learn everyday life skills such as cooking, cleaning and using public transport.

Practise self-care

For family carers, it’s essential to develop a self-care practise. Caring for someone with ASD can mean you have to juggle a number of different roles and tasks. This can make it easy to prioritise the needs of others before your own, and lead to poor mental and emotional health in the long term.

Looking after yourself is far from selfish, and is actually a key factor in making sure you are able to care for others. Maintaining regular hobbies, exercise and seeing friends are all different ways to practise self-care.

For more information on practising self-care while caring for others, read this handy fact sheet.