How to support people living with autism

Discover strategies for supporting someone living with autism.

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Do you have a family member, friend, team member or colleague living with autism?

One of the most useful things you can do to help them is to take the time to learn how you can best support them in daily life.

People living with autism, whether adults or young children, possess a wide range of strengths and challenges.

It's vital to remember that the autism spectrum is broad, encompassing different ways of experiencing life.

The needs of every person living with autism are unique, and it’s important to keep this in mind.

Learning how to support people living with autism begins with understanding the condition itself, followed by applying small but practical tips that can help make your loved ones’ daily life easier.


Understand what it's like to live with autism

Being able to provide the right support begins with understanding the individual needs of the person you are supporting, and the condition they are living with.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism, as it's often referred to, is a lifelong condition that impacts the way individuals perceive the world and interact with others.

ASD can be diagnosed as early as 12 months old, with early intervention being key to helping young people lead the most fulfilling and comfortable life possible.

Everyone’s needs are unique and depend on many factors, including where they sit on the autism spectrum and their personalities.

Recognising that not all people living with autism require the same type of support is critical, and is a great first step to being able to better support your loved one specifically.

People living with autism may interpret social situations differently, have unique ways of learning, engage in repetitive behaviours and exhibit individualised ways of communication.

They might experience hard times developing social skills like holding eye contact, have different ways of expressing their emotions, or show intense interest in specific subjects.

Recognising and acknowledging these aspects is a pivotal part of the support process.

While some people living with autism may also live with an intellectual disability or mental health condition, it’s important to remember that these are separate from ASD itself.

Remember it’s all about trying to understand what it’s like to be in your loved ones’ shoes.

You can learn more about what it’s like to live with autism in our recent blog, Living with autism: symptoms, coping strategies, employment and supports. Being able to provide the right support begins with understanding the individual needs of the person you are supporting, and the condition they are living with.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism, as it's often referred to, is a lifelong condition that impacts the way individuals perceive the world and interact with others.

ASD can be diagnosed as early as 12 months old, with early intervention being key to helping young people lead the most fulfilling and comfortable life possible.

Everyone’s needs are unique and depend on many factors, including where they sit on the autism spectrum and their personalities.

Recognising that not all people living with autism require the same type of support is critical, and is a great first step to being able to better support your loved one specifically.

People living with autism may interpret social situations differently, have unique ways of learning, engage in repetitive behaviours and exhibit individualised ways of communication.

They might experience hard times developing social skills like holding eye contact, have different ways of expressing their emotions, or show intense interest in specific subjects.

Recognising and acknowledging these aspects is a pivotal part of the support process.

While some people living with autism may also live with an intellectual disability or mental health condition, it’s important to remember that these are separate from ASD itself.

Remember it’s all about trying to understand what it’s like to be in your loved ones’ shoes.

You can learn more about what it’s like to live with autism in our recent blog, Living with autism: symptoms, coping strategies, employment and supports.

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Tips for interacting with someone living with autism

Living with autism can bring a host of challenges, including social interactions and communication.

The best way you can support someone who is living with autism when interacting with them is to consider the situation from their point of view.

Consider the following tips:

Clear communication

Using simple, straightforward language and being as explicit as possible is an important skill to hone. For more complex messages, consider visual aids or written instructions. Keep in mind that some people living with autism might have difficulties interpreting idioms or non-verbal cues. 

Respect personal space

Personal space is important for people living with autism. Unless they're comfortable or initiate closer interaction, try to avoid unnecessary physical contact. 

Have patience

Allow them extra time during conversations, especially when teaching new skills, as they might take longer to process information and formulate responses. 

Maintain structure and routine

People living with autism often prefer consistency and routine. Predictable environments and schedules provide a sense of safety and stability.

When you’re spending time with someone living with autism, always strive to fit into their regular routines and structure in their daily lives and environments.

If changes to the routine are inevitable, try to prepare the person for the transition in advance.

Visual schedules can be highly beneficial for this purpose, as they provide a clear expectation of what's to come.

Identify their triggers

Being aware of what triggers discomfort or distress in your loved one is pivotal to helping them experience the world in a way that feels comfortable and safe.

Triggers are often related to sensory sensitivities - certain sounds, lights, or textures might be overwhelming.

When you identify these triggers, you can proactively create more comfortable environments avoiding these things that make them uncomfortable, or prepare them better for unavoidable triggering situations.

Preparing for social events

For someone living with autism, social situations can often present significant challenges.

They may struggle with interpreting social cues or managing the sensory inputs associated with large gatherings.

A helpful strategy to manage this challenge is to prepare them for these events by explaining in advance what will happen.

This could involve describing the venue, the expected attendees, and the agenda for the day.

Such preparation can help reduce anxiety and make the social experience more manageable and enjoyable.

Role-playing possible social interactions can also be a powerful way to help someone living with autism feel more confident and prepared.

Another helpful strategy to keep in mind is devising a plan for when they might feel overwhelmed. 

This plan can include identifying a quiet space they can retreat to or using a predetermined signal to indicate that they need support or wish to leave.

By providing these tools, you can empower them to participate in social situations while ensuring they feel safe and supported.

Encourage professional support

While taking the time to understand your loved one and how they experience their condition can play a significant role in supporting them.

Sometimes encouraging someone living with autism to seek professional, individualised support can be the most beneficial help you can offer.

Occupational therapy, for instance, is a critical resource that can be hugely beneficial.

Therapists are trained to help develop and improve daily living and work skills, from fine motor coordination to social interactions and everything in between.

In addition to therapy, Disability Employment Services also offer valuable support in helping people living with autism find and maintain meaningful employment that suits their unique skills and interests.

Encouraging someone living with autism to access professional support services like these, and supporting them along their journey to access this help can open doors to greater independence and an enhanced quality of life.

By taking the time to really understand how someone living with autism processes the world and keeping in mind some of these tips, you’ll be able to help provide a supportive environment where your loved one feels valued, understood, and comfortable in daily life.

What employment services does APM offer?

APM is Australia's largest provider Disability Employment Services, a government-funded program which helps people living with injury, illness or disability find and keep work.

We can help you with things like:

  • Career advice
  • Finding suitable job opportunities
  • Meeting local employers
  • Writing resumes and job applications
  • Preparing for job interviews
  • Accessing training
  • Accessing mental health support
  • Ongoing workplace support
  • Accessing funding for things like uniforms and transport
  • Accessing workplace modifications to help you succeed at work
  • Workplace assessments to help identify what support is right for you

Ready to get started?

Register now to see if you’re eligible for our, Disability Employment Services program and start your employment journey.

FINDING THE RIGHT JOB FOR YOU

Your personal job plan

APM helps job seekers succeed in their search with tailored job support and guidance.

Identify your strengths:

  • Many individuals with disabilities have unique strengths that can be valuable in the workforce. It’s important to identify and communicate these to potential employers.
  • At APM, we have a team of experienced career consultants who can help you to identify your strengths and match them to suitable job opportunities. Strengths can include things like creativity, empathy and perseverance that can be valuable in many roles.
  • Our goal is to help you find a job that suits your skills and interests, and we are committed to supporting you throughout the entire process.

Building a job around you:

  • Explore realistic job options where you can succeed
  • Develop a personal strategy that includes job searches, resumes and interviews
  • Discuss your support needs with your employer
  • Look at any requirements for equipment or workplace modifications to help you perform a specific job
  • Consider what support you might need when you start working

4 steps to making a positive change in
your life

When you register with APM, we check your eligibility for the program, and help you get started. We guide you through the Centrelink process and your initial assessment, which decides your capacity for employment and suitability for the program.

Register with us, and we'll be
in touch in the next couple of
days to discuss further.

Meet your dedicated
employment consultant at
your nearest APM office.

Discuss the barriers you
face
, and employment needs.

Your employment journey
begins!

WHEN YOU FIND A JOB

Our support doesn’t stop when you start working.

We also want to make sure you and your employer have everything you need to be a success together.

Depending on your level of support and the job you start, we work together to make sure you’re able to work safely and effectively.

This can include helping you access training, job coaching, performance monitoring, and understanding the workplace culture and what is expected from you.

We also support workplaces with proactive education to be aware of any impacts your bipolar disorder may have so we can help avoid any misunderstandings and create a culture of support and inclusion.

If you need ongoing support for long periods of time we will also discuss this with you and establish a support structure.

Our goal is to see you enjoy rewarding and long-term employment and ensure you have the right level of support to succeed.

Get in touch with our teams to find out more.

ADVICE & OTHER RESOURCES

Other advice that may help you find a job