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Unlocking Potential: 6 Strategies to Support Children with Autism 

Navigating the world with autism presents unique challenges for children and their families. As autism is a spectrum condition it impacts everybody differently. However, with the right strategies and support in place, these challenges can be addressed and, in many cases, transformed into opportunities for growth and success. 

In this article, we will share six strategies aimed at nurturing the growth and development of children with autism, to help enable them to thrive.

1. Tailored Educational Pathways

Through the graduated approach, as part of quality first teaching, class teaching can be differentiated to support the individual needs of children with special educational needs. Tailored pathways are designed to fit each child's needs, strengths, and challenges. Teachers, parents, and experts all work together to set clear goals, determine what extra help might be needed, and choose the most appropriate teaching methods. Recognising and celebrating what makes each child unique and helping them grow, creates an environment where every child can do their best and work towards achieving their goals.

Sometimes children with autism will require an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to ensure they have the right support in place at school.  This is a process that is managed by the child’s Local Education Authority which, through comprehensive assessments, will determine:

  • what additional support is required. 

  • what ‘setting type’ is most suitable - mainstream or specialist provision.

2. Routine, Routine, Routine

Children with autism thrive on stability and a predictable routine. Visual schedules and consistent expectations reassure children with autism that they know exactly what is coming next, with no surprises.

Be clear about the task you would like them to complete and give clear step-by-step instructions; for example, a clear bedtime routine might look like this:

1. Put on pyjamas

2. Brush teeth

3. Read one bedtime story

4. Cuddle

5. Turn off the light

By minimising unpredictability and offering clear instructions, we create a feeling of security where children can navigate their surroundings with confidence. Having secure, trusted routines also helps foster independence in the future, teaching the child to refer to external prompts, such as a schedule, instead of relying on being told the routine by someone else.

3. Facilitating Effective Communication

Unlocking the power of communication is essential. Many children with autism face communication barriers that require differentiated approaches. There are many different ways of communicating without using words. Visual aids can be invaluable for effective communication - just be careful not to rely on gestures that require shared understanding. By nurturing these skills, we empower children to express themselves, engage meaningfully with others, and ultimately make friends. Here are some simple tips:

  1. Use your child's name to get their attention so they know you're speaking to them.

  2. Keep your language simple and clear.

  3. Speak slowly and clearly.

  4. Use simple gestures, eye contact and pictures or symbols to support your words.

  5. Allow extra time for your child to understand what you have said.

4. Reducing Sensory Overload

Navigating sensory sensitivities calls for a personalised approach. Using strategies to reduce sensory overload - such as avoiding loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, and unfamiliar surroundings - can help your child stay calm and enjoy their day.  It can be very difficult to understand sensory sensitivities as, neurotypically, these are sounds, smells, sights, that the brain innately disregards.

Establishing a daily routine and also allocating a safe space for the child to retreat to if they are feeling overwhelmed, away from noise and stimulation, creates a predictable and consistent environment. This reduces anxiety and promotes a sense of security.

Everyone is different. It might be that the child doesn’t need their safe space to be quiet. Instead, they might need something more active or noisy that they can control. The key is being open to suggestions, not assuming that one strategy fits all. These strategies should be reviewed according to changing need.

5. Developing Social Interactions

Children with autism thrive when they have clear plans and chances to interact with peers in activities that help them get better at socialising. Help them practise and give them praise so they can feel more comfortable and skilled in social situations.  Social situations can be triggers for anxiety given the unpredictability of interactions between people, so any way that you can help manage expectations is beneficial.

  • Reduce triggers where possible so the social interaction is the only aspect to focus on.

  • Practise any new social skills with your child in a number of different places and with different people. Children with autism can find it hard to apply new skills in different contexts – this is a common difficulty with transference of skills.

  • Arrange side by side play or structured play such as a board game, a computer game or a sport, where taking turns is involved.

  • Provide strategies, such as fidget toys, that enable the child to regulate themselves while still engaging in social interaction.

  • When introducing new social skills, pick the time carefully. Avoid stressful times, or times when your child is distracted by a favourite activity. 

  • Remember that social interactions might not always look as you expect.  The beauty of communications and interactions is that they look different from person to person. What might be your idea of a terrible time (playing Minecraft for hours on end!), might be an absolute dream for the child!

Being kind and knowledgeable is important when supporting children with autism in developing their social skills. By using these methods thoughtfully and with dedication, we create a welcoming space where all children feel important and helped.

6. Using Special Interests

When the autism diagnostic criteria was updated in 2013, the dyad of impairments* included, for the first time, repetitive or restrictive interests or behaviours.

If the child with autism who you’re supporting needs to engage in a specific strategy, whether that is to do with routine, schedules, structure, sensory sensitivities or social communication and interaction, it is advisable to use the child’s special interest to engage them.  If they particularly like a specific cartoon, use those characters to decorate their schedule.  If they are big football fans, use some ball skills as a sensory regulation activity.  By using their special interest, you are capturing their attention and making the strategies more appealing.

The absolute bottom line is that children with autism are just children. Take their lead. They just need some help with mindful adaptation.  Understand what changes might need to be made but also recognise that your in-depth knowledge and understanding of the child is invaluable.

How we can help

We know that navigating 'the system', accessing assessments, and managing symptoms can be frustrating and often feels like an uphill struggle.  

Get in touch, and our dedicated team of Neurodiversity Advisers can provide you with the support you need.


Grace Consulting are the UK’s founding providers of expert independent advice on elderly care advice, special needs advice and neurodiversity advice. 

Independence and client wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do. We listen, reassure and advise you on how to move forwards and find the best possible solutions for your unique life challenges. 


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