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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder. It affects a person's behaviour. And it makes communication and social interactions hard.

Behaviour and symptoms can range from mild to severe. The type of symptoms your child has and how severe they are varies. For example, your child might prefer to play alone and avoid eye contact. Or your child may be late to develop social or verbal skills.

Children with ASD may do things because of a need for sameness or routines. For example, your child may rock his or her body. Or you may notice that your child gets attached to objects or repeats certain rituals and routines.

Some children with ASD need help in most parts of their lives. Others may learn social and verbal skills and lead independent lives as adults. They may be able to do things like go to university and have a job. Finding and treating ASD early has helped many children who have ASD to lead full lives.

If your child has any of the following conditions, this can also affect their prognosis:

  • Language delay.
  • Intellectual disability.
  • Learning disorders.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Anxiety (generalized, social, phobias).
  • Seizures or epilepsy – Some children with ASD have seizures or may be at risk for seizures.

ASD now includes conditions that used to be diagnosed separately. These include:

  • Autism.
  • Asperger's syndrome.
  • Pervasive developmental disorder.

You or your doctor might use any of these terms to describe the condition.

If you are worried about ASD, contact your family doctor. They may refer you to a pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in children’s health) or to a local autism spectrum disorder diagnostic centre. They may also arrange for your child to have a speech language pathology assessment or a hearing assessment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Support
There is help and support for you and your family. Follow these links to find out more:

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Build your child's confidence and skills. Use rules, daily routines, and visual aids such as written schedules. And try role-playing to practice social situations. Children with ASD like specific rules and consistent expectations. Help your child take things they learn and apply them in different settings. For example, if your child learned how to count money in school, have him or her use that skill to pay for something at the grocery store.
  • Focus on your child's strengths. Encourage your child to explore interests at home and at school. And stay informed about what happens in your child's classroom.
  • Encourage your child to learn how to interact with people. Explain why this is important. Give lots of praise, especially when he or she uses a social skill without prompting.
  • Contact your school district to find out what special services your child can be a part of.
  • Learn as much as you can about ASD. Talk to others about it. The more that teachers, your child's peers, and other people learn, the better they can help and support your child.
  • Some children with ASD also have other conditions. They may have anxiety, depression, ADHD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. So they may need medicine. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call the doctor if you have any problems with your child's medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines the doctor prescribes.
  • Plan for your child's future. As your child gets older, think about where your adult child will live or go to university. Think about what training and job resources he or she may need. When a child with ASD becomes an adult, he or she is still eligible for certain services, but will have to request or apply for them. As an adult, he or she will have to ask for what they need themselves. But you can take steps now to help make sure that your child will have proper care and resources throughout life.

For more information about caring for your child with ASD, please visit www.childdevelopmentresearch.ca/parent-community-resources and scroll down to the Autism Spectrum Disorder section (blue section).

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You think you may hurt your child or your child may hurt himself or herself.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child cannot control his or her behaviour.
  • Your child shows aggressive behaviour, like hitting or biting. Or your child is verbally abusive, like using angry or threatening words.
  • Your child keeps wandering off.
  • Your child is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or there are indications of mood disorders or anxiety.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter R982 in the search box to learn more about "Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children: Care Instructions".

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.