Do you have an autistic child? Here are parenting tips to help.

Dr. Friedman, director of Emerge & See Education Center, shares her thoughts on parenting an autistic child, and She says, “We need to become translators of our children’s behaviors.” In other words,  we need to understand what our children are trying to communicate through their behaviors. And Shannon Des Roches Rosa couldn’t agree more.

Shannon is the mother of two autistic boys and a writer & advocate. Her book, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, gives really good advice on raising an autistic child. She says, “It’s important to remember that every behavior has a meaning or purpose, even if we don’t understand it.”

Other experts like Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., echoes Shannon’s point by putting it this way “Pay attention to cues — what is your child trying to tell you?”

Nearly all experts agree that to be good parents to our autistic children; we need to be able to understand their behavior and respond accordingly. Here is a summary of what most experts say are the best parenting tips for those with autistic children.

Sleep Disruption

Autistic children often have difficulty sleeping, leading to daily disruptive behaviors. Dr. Eileen Riley-Hall, the author of Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum, suggests establishing a room for sleep with no stimulating noise or lights. Shannon Des Roches Rosa also recommends a weighted blanket to make sleep more appealing.

Amanda Friedman, Ph.D., BCBA-D, a clinical psychologist and the director of Emerge & See Education Center, adds that when the child wakes up during the night, it is best not to try to engage them in food, television or other activities, but to help them get back to sleep as quickly as possible.

Food Sensitivity

As Riley-Hall points out, many autistic children are sensitive to certain foods. She recommends making mealtime more pleasurable by creating a relaxed atmosphere, with everyone sitting together at the table. She also mentions the trial and error approach and trying different foods to find what the child likes. Berkley, co-owner and co-director of Emerge & See Education refines Riley’s approach by suggesting that parents introduce new foods at a time and in small quantities.

She says, “eating a variety of foods starts with expanding the child’s tolerance level” The mere presence of food on the table is a great way to start. The child doesn’t have to eat it, but getting them used to new foods is the first step. Next, you can introduce a tiny bit of the food on their plate and let them gain the confidence to eat it.


Meltdowns are common for autistic children, but it’s not always easy to deal with them. Riley-Hall says it’s important to try to remain calm during a meltdown and avoid giving in to the child’s demands. She also recommends understanding that every child with autism has limitations and that it’s important to avoid setting up the child for tantrums by pushing them beyond their limits. She also suggests that If a tantrum happens in public and everyone is staring, it’s best to handle out pre-made wallet-size cards that explain the child’s condition.

For example, the card could say, “Please excuse my child’s behavior. He/she has autism and is nonverbal.”

Aggressive Behavior

Des Roches Rosa has some really good advice regarding aggressive behavior in autistic children. She says, When her son Luka exhibits aggressive behavior, it’s always because he’s feeling overwhelmed and needs help to calm down. She says sometimes it’s barometric pressure or a change in routine that can be the trigger. Rosa swears by the note-taking approach to help track Luka’s behaviors. She says a good behaviorist will also use a data collection system to help figure out the triggers and how to avoid them.

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