How to prepare a child with autism for independence
4 May 2017
Ewa Kochańska
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Five tips on how to prepare a child with autism for new situations and independence.


Children with autism face many situations that can overwhelm them and provoke difficult emotions. It’s important that we become guides through the world of emotions, teaching our children to name and distinguish them. Sometimes, even the children themselves can be unaware of what they are experiencing and how to cope with it. Special attention should be paid to all the messages that our children send so that they know that communication is key.  Children with autism often don’t use speech to communicate, instead relying on nonverbal messages. The key point is for communication to appear at all; the type of communication is less important. Communication and emotions are the foundation that helps children to enter social life. Dobromiła Smolak, special needs teacher, gives advice on how to teach children to cope with difficult situations and prepare them for independence.

Five tips on how to prepare a child with autism for new situations:

1. Tell the child that something is going to happen. 

Remember that no-one likes to face a new situation for no reason, even more so a child with autism, who needs predictability and patterns.

2. Use visual aids.

Most children with autism are visualisers, which makes it advisable to use visual aids during conversations. Children with autism respond well to pictures, so try using picture stories to show how a difficult situation is going to play out.

3. Play with your child.

You can prepare your child for what is going to happen by role-playing difficult situations. Don’t forget to switch roles.

4. Always bring your child’s favourite toy with you.

Your child’s favourite toy will help them child feel safe and pull through difficult or stressful moments.

5. Don’t be afraid of new situations.

It’s worth trying out different things, because sometimes, your child will react much calmer than you expect.

How to handle specific situations?

Zawsze trzeba pamiętać o tym, że ważne jest szczęście i poczucie komfortu całej rodziny: rodziców, rodzeństwa. Aby je osiągnąć, nie można rezygnować z uczestnictwa w życiu społecznym. Dziecko z zaburzeniami także chce świętować urodziny, robić zakupy, korzystać z wyjazdów wakacyjnych. Oto kilka porad, jak odnaleźć się w konkretnych sytuacjach.

1. Holidays

You shouldn’t opt out of going on holidays just because your child has special needs. You should, however, plan your stay in advance and think about how to organise it for the benefit of the whole family. For instance, most children have difficulties with too many stimuli, such as crowds or noise. So a seaside resort filled with tourist and loud music will probably not make for the best destination. Instead, look for an out-of-the-way place among nature where your child will be able to do what they enjoy – playing in the sand or in the water.

2. Birthday party

Birthday is a special occasion, so it’s worth letting your child experience it such a way. You don’t need to organise the party in a large entertainment centre. You can invite just the closest relatives and friends and make a small party at home. Make that day special, but not overwhelming for your child.

3. Going to a museum or theatre

If you decide to take your child to an exhibition, remember to choose one that will interest them, such as one that lets children do experiments or touch the exhibits. Avoid places with too many lights and strange noises.

You can also take your child to the theatre. Choose plays of an appropriate length, designed for small children. Try to book a seat by the door so that you can easily leave the building if it turns out that your child can’t cope with the situation.

4. Shopping

First of all, don’t take your child to a mall. Choose, for instance, a small neighbourhood shop instead. Before you leave home, you can draw a shopping list for your child, which will help them to concentrate on looking for specific products and understand that you’re not going to buy things you don’t need, just those on the list.


Do you want to prepare a child with autism for independence?