Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Children: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

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

Behavior 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. Finding and treating ASD early has helped many children who have ASD to lead full lives. They can do things like go to college and have a job.

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

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

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

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 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.

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. Federal law requires public schools to have programs for people ages 3 through 21 with special needs.
  • 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.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Some children with ASD also have other conditions. They may have anxiety, depression, ADHD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. So they may need medicine. 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 college. 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.

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 themself.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If your child talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child cannot control their behavior.
  • Your child shows aggressive behavior, like hitting or biting. Or your child is verbally abusive, like using angry or threatening words.
  • Your child keeps wandering off.

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

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.