Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

How to help your autistic child with day-to-day life - Autism

This page has some tips on helping your autistic child with day-to-day life.

Helping your child's communication


  • use your child's name so they know you're speaking to them

  • use simple and clear language - avoid phrases that have different meanings such as "pull your socks up"

  • speak slowly and clearly

  • use simple gestures or pictures to support what you're saying

  • allow extra time for your child to understand what you say

  • ask your primary care team, GP, teacher or children's disability network team (CDNT) if you can get help from a speech and language therapist (SLT)

  • only ask your child 1 thing at a time

  • pick quiet and calm places to have conversations

Communicating with your child -

Dealing with anxiety

Anxiety affects a lot of autistic children and adults. It's often caused by not being able to make sense of things going on around them.

Try to find out why your child is feeling anxious.

It may be because of:

  • a change in routine - it may help to prepare your child for any change, such as a new class at school in September
  • a noisy or brightly coloured place - it may help to take your child to a calmer place, such as another room

If your child is often anxious, speak to your GP or CDNT.

They may refer you to a counsellor or therapist with experience of autism.

Anxiety - tips and self-help

Helping with your child's behaviour

Some autistic children have behaviours, such as:

  • stimming - a repetitive behaviour (such as flapping their hands or flicking their fingers), but it is not always a problem
  • "meltdowns" - a complete loss of control caused by being totally overwhelmed

How to help with your child's behaviour

Eating difficulties

Autistic children may:

  • only want to eat foods of a certain colour or texture
  • not eat enough or eat too much
  • eat things that are not food (this is called "pica")
  • have problems with coughing or choking while eating
  • be constipated, so they feel full even when they have not eaten much food

It may help to keep a food diary, including what, where and when your child eats. This can help you spot any common issues your child has.

Speak to your primary care team, GP or CDNT about any problems your child is having with eating.

Problems sleeping

Many autistic children find it hard to get to sleep, or they may wake up several times during the night.

This may be because of:

  • anxiety
  • sensitivity to the light from smartphones or tablets
  • problems with the sleep hormone melatonin
  • hyperactivity
  • a health condition that affects sleep, such as food sensitivity or breathing problems
  • what they eat

You can help your child by:

  • keeping a sleep diary of how your child sleeps to help you notice any common issues
  • following the same bedtime routine
  • making sure their bedroom is dark and quiet
  • giving ear plugs to wear if it helps
  • talking to a GP about how to manage health conditions that make sleep difficult

If these tips do not help, talk to your primary care team, GP or CDNT about creating a sleep plan.

Sleep problems - tips and self-help

Staying healthy

Your child should have regular check-ups with the:

  • dentist
  • optician
  • doctors treating any other conditions your child has

Let staff know what they can do to make it easier to go to these appointments.

Advice about choosing a school

One of the decisions you'll have to make is where you want your child to go to school.

The options are:

  • mainstream school
  • mainstream school with additional supports
  • special classes for an autistic children or children with other disabilities
  • special schools for autistic children or children with other disabilities

This can be a hard decision to make.

The Special Education Needs Organiser (SENO) will help you find out about supports available in your area.

Find a SENO -

Friendships and socialising

Some autistic children can find it hard to make friends.

There are some things you can do to help:



  • do not put pressure on your child - learning social skills takes time

  • do not force your child into social situations if they prefer being on their own

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 30 May 2023
Next review due: 30 May 2026