100 ways to support autistic children and adults – for individuals, professionals and businesses.

100 ways to support autistic children and adults

Today marks the start of Autism Awareness week and April the 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. All over the world, people will be engaging in all kinds of activities and fundraising to help improve understanding and acceptance for autistic individuals everywhere. But what does autism awareness, and acceptance, actually mean? Will autistic people wake up on April the 3rd and find that their lives and experiences have improved? Will the people who learned something new about autism on April the 2nd go on to think of ways to support autistic children and adults around them? Hopefully, yes. The changes may not be felt or seen right away but every small piece of progress, every attitude that changes is a step towards making the world happier for everyone.

However, sometimes awareness can be quite a vague thing. Plenty of people are far more knowledgeable about autism these days – almost everyone is aware of it in some way. But this does not always transfer into something that can provide practical support and acceptance for autistic people. People are aware of autism but, of course, they are not necessarily thinking about how they can implement that knowledge to be as helpful as possible, particularly if they are not personally touched by autism themselves.

With that in mind, I have devised this list, with help from autism parents and actually autistic people all over the world, to be a practical list of things that individuals, professionals and businesses can do to actively improve something or make life easier for an autistic person, whether they are a child or an adult.

It should be said that not all of these will apply to every single autistic person – obviously. However, the list as a whole should give some insight into the kinds of things that will help overall.

100 ways to support autistic children and adults

  1. If you run a business that has music playing for any reason, turn it down.
  2. Dim your lights.
  3. Consider having a sensory-friendly time every week or every month when you turn off music and reduce other noise, light and bustle.
  4. If you cannot designate a time, put up information about your quiet times on public display so that your autistic customers can plan to come during those times.
  5. If you run a cinema, consider running autism-friendly screenings for films aimed at both adults and children.
  6. Consider providing sensory kits, like this one, for customers to use if needed.

Sensory kit

  1. Do not wear perfume.
  2. If you work in a classroom or office with an autistic person, consider how you can remove background noise and be aware that they may find background noise very distracting.
  3. If you are in a public bathroom, consider using paper towels instead of electric hand-dryers.
  4. If you see a child cover their ears and scream, stop using the hand-dryers.
  5. If you see anyone react very negatively to a loud or repetitive noise, see if there is anything you can do to reduce the noise level or stop it entirely.
  6. If you are a business, consider removing electric hand-dryers altogether.
  7. If this is not an option, put up a sign asking your patrons to consider autistic customers when using the hand-dryers.
  8. If you run a business that has staff uniforms, consider making sure that they are not too bright or patterned.
  9. Consider providing ear-defenders or headphones for your customers, particularly if you have noisy equipment that is used at unpredictable times.

Boy after a meltdown by Someone's Mum

  1. If you are a council or contractor carrying out noisy work in an area, put up notices, just like when road works are planned.
  2. If you are an employer, consider how you can get more autistic people into your workforce and help support them. These resources from the NAS are a good starting point.
  3. If you are running a church or other place or religious worship that uses bells or any other call to worship, have the times and dates publicly displayed on your outside noticeboard.
  4. Do not ask children to look at you when you are speaking to them.
  5. If you are running an event, have an alternative to wristbands or stamps for entry.
  6. If you run a restaurant or cafe, display planned changes to your menu well in advance.
  7. If you run out of a dish for the day, display this clearly or put notes in your menus.
  8. If you are involved in the planning of playgrounds, consider fencing them in.
  9. If you are trying to communicate with an autistic child, do not expect them to enter your world – you must enter theirs. Use their special interest, or the activity they are currently doing, to engage them, even if it seems strange to you.
  10. If you are involved in the planning of public bathrooms, consider larger changing tables, or, better yet, a Changing Places toilet.
  11. Do not try to second-guess what someone is trying to say or hurry them along if they stammer, or have language processing issues.
  12. Give time for processing. Wait the time you think is reasonable for an answer, then add ten seconds if needed.
  13. Do not repeat requests with different phrasing – many autistic people will take longer to process if you keep changing word order or phrasing.
  14. Do not ask too many questions.
  15. If an autistic adult or child seems to struggle to answer your questions, make them less open-ended or give options.
  16. Learn about visual supports that can help communication (timetables, social stories, symbols) and consider using them, especially if you may encounter autistic individuals in settings like schools and hospitals.
  17. Ask an autistic person if there is anything you can change to help them.
  18. Accept behaviour that you may find quirky or strange wholeheartedly and without judgement.
  19. Teach your children to do the same.
  20. If you are a public establishment like a library, have your rules and policies written up and a sign saying they are readily available for people to read. Some autistic people need to know the rules to feel comfortable.
  21. If you run any building open to the public, have a poster or suggestion box to let people know you are open to accommodating personal needs.
  22. Some autistic people use Augmented or Alternative forms of communication (AAC). Do not assume that lack of speech equals lack of understanding.
  23. Do not speak while an autistic person is typing to communicate using AAC.
  24. If you run a business that sells food, make sure your descriptions of menu items are detailed and accurate.
  25. Use literal language.
  26. If you use idioms, similes, metaphors or sarcasm, consider that they may be a source or confusion or anxiety for an autistic person.

Examples of idiom and metaphor

  1. Do not touch people without warning or permission.
  2. Understand that some autistic individuals do not enjoy physical gestures such as hugs or pats on the back. In fact, this can lead to them feeling very uncomfortable or anxious. Concern and kindness can be shown in other ways, such as verbal praise or rewards.
  3. Keep inviting autistic adults and children to places, even if they or their parents say they cannot come.
  4. Let an autistic child come to a birthday party early, so that they have time to acclimatise to the noise and new people. Thanks to  wifemotherlife.co.uk
  5. If you invite an autistic child or adult to a social event, let them know exactly what is planned. And stick to it.
  6. If an autistic person of any age seems to react aggressively or rudely, consider that anxiety may be causing a problem and ask them/consider what may be the trigger.
  7. Let an autistic child leave a party early – give their parent their party bag in advance and let them know they can leave if they need to at any point.
  8. Have an area/table/section in your establishment with less decoration/sensory stimulation.
  9. If your run a hairdressers or barbers, have a designated time when you will not use noisy equipment like clippers and hair dryers.
  10. Remember that repetitive behaviours are often coping mechanisms and so they should always be respected.
  11. Do not talk too much – be aware that too much information may be overwhelming.
  12. If an autistic person seems to talk too much, keep listening.
  13. Do not force communication – take the autistic person’s lead.
  14. Give frequent warnings/reminders about changes in routine or upcoming events.
  15. Think very carefully before you tell an autistic person that something is definitely happening. Do not tell them it is if there is a chance it isn’t. Thanks to www.thebrickcastle.com
  16. If you have autistic children or adults living nearby, drop them a note to let them know in advance when you will be doing noisy tasks like mowing the lawn.
  17. If you run a school, provide a quiet area to escape to and allow children to go there if they need to get away.
  18. If you have an autistic person visiting, for any reason, provide a quiet space where they can go if they need to.
  19. If you see an older child in a push chair, do not assume that they or their parents are lazy – some children with autism use push chairs in order to help with sensory and anxiety issues.
  20. If you have an autistic child or adult visiting you, in a personal or professional capacity, respect and accommodate their routines.
  21. Educate yourself about ableism.
  22. Do not ask people to remove or keep on items of clothing (within reason!) if it makes them uncomfortable.
  23. If you work in an establishment that plans irregular events, put notices up to let your general customers know in advance that it will be busier while those events are running.
  24. Explain routines in short clear steps. For example: In a medical exam the doctor should explain each step of the examination before going ahead.
  25. Warning for change is always important. Even if you have someone with autism visit your house and you’ve moved a piece of furniture in your living room, explain that before entering the living room.
  26. Educate yourself on stimming behaviours. Don’t overreact to them.
  27. Unless they are endangering themselves and/or others, never ask an autistic person to stop stimming.
  28. Educate yourself on self-injury behaviours. Know how to react appropriately when this occurs.
  29. If you run a school, doctor’s surgery, hospital or any other public service, make sure than your staff have adequate autism training.
  30. If you run a group or club for young people, consider how you can make adjustments so that autistic young people can attend and feel safe and included.
  31. Follow some great Autism Awareness pages on Facebook, such as H2au: The Stuff of Our Life
  32. Read some great articles by autistic adults, for example Autistic Not Weird.
  33. Learn about the terms neurotypical and neurodiversity.
  34. Teach your children about neurodiversity and about how it is okay to think differently.
  35. If your children are very young, use age-appropriate language to explain some behaviours they may see from autistic children attending their nursery or childcare setting. You can find some ways to do that here.
  36. Learn the difference between a tantrum and an autistic meltdown and use the terms correctly.
  37. Educate yourself about autistic shutdowns
  38. Learn about autistic burnout.
  39. Ask an autistic person or their parent about the routines they follow and try to help accommodate them.
  40. If someone tells you they are autistic, or that their child is autistic, do not say that you are sorry.
  41. If you see a child having a meltdown in public, do not tut or make comment.
  42. You could ask the adult dealing with them if they need help though.
  43. If you run a website for a business or any other place that people visit, make sure you have a gallery of images that show each area of the site. This can be invaluable in helping autistic individuals feel less anxious about visiting new places.
  44. Understand that many tasks that are straightforward for neurotypical people can take a huge amount of effort for autistic people. Educate yourself about Spoon Theory and help an autistic person keep/replenish their spoons.
  45. If you know you are going to be meeting an autistic child in a professional or personal capacity, consider sending them a picture of yourself beforehand so that they can get used to what you look like.
  46. If a child or adult has food and texture aversions, realise that they may not “eat when they are hungry”
  47. Ask autistic individuals or the families of autistic children if there are any brands or everyday foods and items that they must have, particularly if they are visiting you.
  48. Respect how an autistic person likes to refer to their autism.
  49. Do not assume that an autistic child is bad, or that their behaviour is bad.
  50. If you are in contact with an autistic child who is non-verbal,  find other non-verbal ways of interacting with them.
  51. Focus on an autistic person’s strengths and talents and praise them for them.
  52. If you buy an autistic child or adult a gift and they do not react in the way you expect, try not to feel offended
  53. If you are considering any of these ways to support autistic children and adults and want advice as to how to proceed, ask an autistic person for their views or help.
  54. Do not judge other people’s parenting.
  55. Remember that autistic individuals are just as diverse and different as any other member of the community.
  56. If someone is behaving in a way you do not understand or feel is inappropriate, do not make any assumptions about the reasons for their behaviour.
  57. When this happens, do not stare.
  58. Teach your children about some of the differences above and make sure that they know that being different is okay.
  59. If you think that implementing these changes would be unreasonable or that autistic people should have to learn to cope in a neurotypical world without adjustments, consider if that would be true if autistic individuals outnumbered neurotypical individuals.

  And then refer to number 62 on this list.

I hope that you find these ways to support autistic children and adults helpful. Please share, print out, pass on. Do everything you can to make sure this information gets to people who can really make a difference to the lives of autistic people on Autism Awareness Day this year.

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100 ways to support autistic children and adults - top tips for supporting autistic children and adults for businesses, professional and individuals. #autism #autismtips #autismawareness

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7 thoughts on “100 ways to support autistic children and adults – for individuals, professionals and businesses.

  1. 2. Dim your lights. means I fall over and /or walk into things, proprioception (or what is left) relies on being able to see well. Remove glare and flicker please.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. I think when I say dim the lights I am not expecting that they would be dimmed to the point that people cannot see. Just that very harsh, bright lights are unnecessary and unpleasant for autistics – I know they are for me. I will try to edit when I can as this was a huge labour of love for me and would like it to be improved on where it can be.

  2. A few new ideas for me to consider.
    Always like to learn as much as I can so i can relate to my son.

    Bravo for this great list. I’ve shared on Twitter and on my Pinterest page.

  3. Thank you. I did not know that the arm flapping had a name. I have seen my son do this ‘stimming’ when he is either upset or out of routine and it now totally makes sense to me that you would go to a repetitive behaviour for reassurance. Probably because that’s what I would do too (not necessarily arm flapping but something repetitive. Maybe I’m autistic too.

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