Lifestyle Changes to Manage Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a lifelong condition. Children with ASD and their families may benefit from early intervention. This will need a structured, predictable schedule. With help, many people with ASD learn to cope with their condition. Most need assistance and support throughout their lives. Others are able to work and live on their own when they grow up.

Making these lifestyle changes may help your child both at home and at school:

  • Organize tasks—Even simple tasks may need to be broken down into small parts. They can be directed one-at-a-time to keep the child on track. Keep the the schedule visible so your child can use it with you.
  • Maintain a structured environment—Making transitions may be hard or upsetting. Try to keep things in their place to help reduce stress.
  • Avoid distractions—Slight disturbances may disrupt a person with ASD from the task at hand.
  • Reward good behavior—Doing so will increase reinforce what is expected. Work with a behavioral therapist who can guide you and your child. This may also lead to improvements in language, social skills, and behavior.
  • Find out what your child is sensitive to—There is no way of knowing what a person with ASD actually receives from their senses. Clothes may feel like sandpaper, broken bones may not hurt, whispers may be roars, and hugs may be painful. Watch your child for cues to learn how your child responds.
  • Find activities your child likes—Regular exercise may reduce repetitive behaviors. Popular choices are yoga, dance, jogging, martial arts, or horeseback riding.
  • At mealtime—Your child may avoid certain foods because of their texture, taste, or color. This can keep them from eating a balanced diet. Eat at the same time every day in a quiet setting. If your child is sensitive to certain foods, talk to a dietitian before making changes. They will help with meal planning so your child gets the nutrition they need.

When to Call Your Child's Doctor

You will needto keep track of your child's progress. Stay in touch with their care team and teachers. Be sure that you feel comfortable with your child's doctor, therapists, or other caretakers. The care team should have experience working with ASD. Call them if you or your child is having problems or a treatment is not working as it should.


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Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and diet. Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Available at: Accessed August 19, 2019.
Johnson CP, Myers SM, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1183-1215.
Treatment for autism spectrum disorder. Centers for Disease Control website. Available at: Updated april 26, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2019.
Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 8/19/2019

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