5 Ways You Can Help And Support Someone With Autism

a messy bed with white sheets, with a cup of tea on it and a few magazines

If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, its that the people who are closest to me understand my autism and do what they can to help support me with it.

Unfortunately, I know that other people aren’t always so lucky. 

There are still so many misconceptions and stereotypes around autism, with people regularly mocking people on the spectrum or using it as an insult. 

[Related: 5 Things I Wish People Understood About Autism]

I strongly believe that educating people on autism is the best way to help get rid of these misconceptions and that most of the time people just don’t understand what autism actually is. 

One of the things I really want to do this year is to start going into businesses, schools + universities to give talks about autism and how you can help support someone on the spectrum within those institutions. 

Most of the time these things are actually really basic, and wouldn’t be hard to implement. But with only 16% of people on the spectrum actually in paid employment, I think this kind of education could go a long way to help improve that number!

a pair of glasses sat on a pile of books with a yellow cushion in the background
Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Learn Their Triggers 

Learning someone’s triggers and making sure to avoid them is one of the best things you can do. 

Everyone on the spectrum is different, so asking someone in advance what their triggers are and educating yourself on what overstimulation actually is is a great starting point.

So, for example, I know that Chris can’t cope with the taste, smell or texture of a lot of different foods, so if I’m making a meal I’ll avoid anything that includes these ingredients. 

Not just in his meal but in mine too.

Anything can be a trigger, but the main ones tend to be the 5 senses; Touch, Taste, Sight, Sound and Smell. 

Flashing lights, sudden loud noises, certain smells, physical contact from strangers, small spaces are just a few of the more common examples. 

Stick To The Plan

Personally, this is a really big one for me. 

If I’m going out with a friend for a coffee at Starbucks and suddenly they change their mind at the last minute and want to go for a meal at Pizza Hut instead, there’s a good chance this will trigger an anxiety attack or even a meltdown. 

This is because I have to know for sure exactly what I’m doing and how to do it in advance, especially if I’m having to travel on my own.

I’ll be planning out the route in my head, working out travel times and making sure I’ve rehearsed what to say for any social situations. 

bullet journal flatly with glasses and stationary scattered around it
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

There are people out there who have laughed when I’ve explained this, but I actually have to plan in advance what drink I’ll ask for and the exact words that I’ll need to say when asking for it. 

If I don’t I’m liable to get myself mixed up and ask for the wrong drink or get flustered and say the wrong thing, which can be extremely embarrassing and upsetting. 

Obviously plans can change some times, so if that happens just try to give the person as much notice as possible and accept that they might need to cancel if they feel they don’t have enough processing time to familiarise themselves with the new plan. 

Support Our Meltdowns

I wish I had the ability to explain just how overwhelming, scary and draining having a meltdown can be. 

You become hyper-sensitive to absolutely everything; daylight, the sound of someone breathing, even the feel of your own clothes against your skin can be too much.

But the thing I’ve learnt from personal experience is that trying to stop or mask a meltdown will just make it ten times worse later on, and can result in the slightest thing triggering one. 

Usually at the most inconvenient time possible!

[Related: 7 Ways To Practice Self Care When You’re Feeling Crap]

If someone is having a meltdown, just do your best to support them while they’re having it. 

a white cup with "be strong" on it sat on a white surface and a white and black towel
Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

Where possible get them out of whatever situation is causing it and give them whatever comfort you can. 

I feel like a broken record saying this, but everyone will need different kinds of support when having a meltdown so make sure to talk about this beforehand.

Some people might not be able to cope with being touched, while others might find physical contact to be grounding and reassuring. 

Finding out beforehand means you won’t accidentally make the meltdown even worse, and that you can give them the best possible support. 

Be Honest

The one thing I tell everyone, whether its friends, family or complete strangers is that if I say or do something that upsets or offends you; tell me! 

I can guarantee that whatever it is that I’ve said or done was unintentional, but I’m not going to know it’s a problem (and therefore not do it again) unless you say so. 

I spend half my life over analyzing every single social interaction I have (both online and in real life), panicking that I’ve said or done something that’s considered “weird” or that I might have inadvertently offended someone. 

And I’m not going to lie, it’s exhausting! 

But if I know the person I’m with will tell me if I’ve done something they don’t like, it lessens the anxiety and I can usually relax and be a bit more “myself”. 

a messy bed with white sheets, with a cup of tea on it and a few magazines
Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Accept Us For Who We Are

Some people will talk too loud, too quietly, too fast, too slow, not enough, too much…please just accept that this is how that person is and don’t bring it up constantly. 

I know that from my own childhood, having someone constantly mention that you talk too quickly, or that you don’t talk enough can make you feel really self-conscious about your speech. 

As an adult, I’m constantly monitoring my tone of voice: is it too loud? Am I talking too quickly? Am I talking too much? 

Again it’s exhausting having these thoughts constantly going through your head, and can make concentrating on the conversation or task really difficult. 

The amount of times I’ve forgotten what I was talking about because my brain has interrupted to tell me I’m talking too fast is ridiculous! 

What do you think is the most important way to support someone with autism?

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  • Laura ♡ says:

    I’m not on the spectrum, as far as I know, but I am SO similar to how you process and prepare for social situations.

    I have to know who, what, when, where so I can figure out exactly what I’m doing. I try to work out getting there, getting home, thinking of a suitable reason to leave if I feel overwhelmed. And if it’s in a pub there is no chance in hell I’m walking in by myself without having someone meet me by the door. Walking in and not knowing where people are and trying to find them send me into a spiral.
    And if the plans change last minute I am for sure not going. I need notice to process it all again and prepare because I guarantee I have been freaking out about going for a casual drink at the pub for over a week.

    Truthfully I feel like much of this is just good practice as a friend. It’s always best to understand a person’s needs… autism or not… because it can be applied to those with social anxiety or those prone to panic attacks.

    Shocking only 16% are in employment. I had no idea and that seems unfairly low for people who could do an amazing job with the right support. I hope you get to give your talls because the education would be invaluable!

    Laura ☆ http://www.laurahasablog.co.uk

  • Jade Marie says:

    That sounds so much like me!! Pubs are a nightmare for me anyway, there’s always too much noise and my brain finds them threatening most times.

    Trying to find people when you’re meeting them is the worst, especially if it’s in a busy place – I get really self conscious!

    And exactly, a lot of it is just being a good friend but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do even these things or expect their friend to change and fit their needs instead!

    The employment numbers are so disheartening, and I know first hand how horrible employers can be – either in interviews or after they’ve hired you 😔 thank you! I hope I can too as it’s something I’m really passionate about!

  • I’ve nominated you for a blog award ‘The Chronically Hopeful Award’ you deserve it so much here is the link to my post http://www.bloomingmindfulness.co.uk/chronically-hopeful-award/

  • I need to entirely plan routes for mobility reasons and anxiety reasons, so I understand that feeling well, that I can’t change plans. I too also plan food and drink well in advance

  • Dax Munro says:

    Finding posts like this makes me feel so understood and happy. 🙂
    I was diagnosed with Aspergers at age 21, despite my mum trying to have me assessed as a child.

    As a child, meltdowns were frequent (sometimes several times a day) and trying to explain to my family that I was in distress was difficult because none of them are Autistic and so couldn’t understand what I was experiencing.

    It’s definitely important for there to be more education on Autism as a whole and for the many myths online to be brought to light. Your post has given me hope that others out there will begin to understand what Autism truly is.

    I wish you luck in all that you do, Dax. xoxo

  • What a great post! Thank you for sharing this part of you. Autism is often hard to understand so it’s great to read about how you experience the world with autism.
    I work in a hospital setting and regularly have worked with kids with autism. That can be tough! Every child is different of course, but learning how to best help these kids in a chaotic environment can be challenging. I learn from the kids and their families.
    Thank you again for sharing this important post! Definitely keep doing it!

  • Nyxinked says:

    This is a wonderful post. Very helpful to anyone who knows someone with Autism or maybe has it themselves. I personally have a few friends who are on the spectrum to some degree, and although I found it hard to understand at the start I now know a lot more thanks to them guiding me.
    This post has fantastic points on how to cope with autism, thank you for sharing.

  • Annaleid says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I already got some information about autism during my education, but this is also very useful! I know quite some people with autism around me and these tips are so practical! Thanks a lot!
    xoxo Annaleid

  • GirlMasked says:

    Brilliant post, thanks so much for sharing. I will definitely bear your points in mind for my friend who is on the spectrum. That employment statistic is horrific and I really hope it improves.

  • Stardreams says:

    My son is 24 and autistic, and I always wondered what goes on in his head, he’s not very vocal(like a typical male). Thank you so much for sharing this, you have no idea how much this will mean to families dealing with autism, I applaud you. *hugs* I’m definitely going to be following your blog. I wish you all the luck in the universe.

  • Dan Udale says:

    I think you have done such an excellent job of articulating how to support someone with autism, I don’t know enough about it and reading this is definitely helping me on my way to understand autism and being able to interact with autistic people in a positive way. Thank you so much, I appreciate the advice and how easy you made it to digest 🙂

  • Yvonne says:

    Two of my sons are autistic and you have described situations that happen all the time. I support their meltdowns in a safe way. They have high levels of anxiety and life can be hard but I wouldn’t change it.

  • KHarris says:

    These are some really great tips! Thank you for helping those of us who might not know how to help our friends with autism when it comes to making plans or going out. While we might know abstractly that things are different it’s really hard to know how to negotiate it without causing upset when a lot of people are so hesitant to just lay it all out in plain language like this!

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much Beverley, thats so kind of you!

  • Jade Marie says:

    I’m so glad you found it helpful! I think that it’s something thats not spoken about enough, and I hope that by talking about it in plain language like this will help people to better understand how to help 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    The anxiety can be so difficult to deal with, but it’s lovely to hear how supportive you are of their meltdowns!

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much! I still get anxious posting autism content, as it’s such a wide spectrum and I don’t want to seem like I’m talking for everyone, so it’s wonderful to hear that the post has helped you! 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comment 🙂 My boyfriend is autistic too and doesn’t talk about things much, so I completely understand what you mean! I hope it can help other families, plus educate people who may have no experience with autism 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    It really is a horrible statistic to see! I really hope it starts to increase, but I know from personal experience how discriminating and uneducated some employers/people can be 🙁

  • Jade Marie says:

    I’m so glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much! It’s great that you’ve been able to learn from your friends guiding you 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much! It’s great that you can learn from those children and their families, which is definitely the best way of doing it as everyone is different 🙂 I’ll definitely keep writing this type of content as it has had such a positive response from people 🙂

  • Jade Marie says:

    I’m so glad to hear that Dax 🙂 I know when I was growing up is was impossible to explain why I was feeling like I did, and I never felt like I was recognized or understood!

    I really hope these posts plus the others I have planned will be able to help with those myths and educate people. Plus I want to start doing talks on autism too, which will hopefully do even more to help 🙂 xx

  • Yes, this post was so helpful so I’d love to read more.
    I should have said I try to learn from the families but sometimes in the chaotic hospital environment, it’s hard for them to help when they are overwhelmed in the moment themselves. When I can, I try to reach out before they come to the hospital but that’s not always possible.
    But anyways, yes, definitely keep writing! Thank you!

  • Jade Marie says:

    I will, thank you for the encouragement! And yes of course that will be really difficult, but I’m sure the fact that you make the effort is really appreciated 🙂

  • This was such an insightful post Jade! I love your idea about going into schools etc. to raise awareness, I think that will make such a difference and help people understand autism more. Keep up the fab work x

    Megan | https://meganelizabethlifestyle.com/

  • Jade Marie says:

    Thank you so much Megan! I have a meeting with my mentor next month so hopefully she’ll be able to point me in the right direction ☺️ he daughter is autistic too so it’s something she’s very passionate about as well!x

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