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Autism Spectrum Disorder


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of developmental conditions that can make social interaction and communication challenging. Spectrum means signs and symptoms can vary from one child to another and range from mild to severe. ASD includes autism disorder, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably with ASD.


Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has a seizure for the first time.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child is taking seizure medicine but still has a seizure.
  • Your child swallows something that is not food.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child becomes depressed, or has new problems eating or sleeping.
  • Your child is eating poorly and is losing weight.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to help decrease anxiety, repeated behaviors, or anger. Your child may also need medicine to control or prevent seizures. Medicine such as melatonin may be recommended to help your child sleep better. Your child's healthcare provider may change your child's current medicine schedule if his or her sleep is affected.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

How ASD is managed:

Your child's healthcare provider may talk to you about levels of support for your child. This is based on challenges your child has with social skills, communication, and repeated behaviors. The level of support ranges from 1 to 3. Level 3 is the most support needed.

  • Early intervention may help your child learn and keep new skills. Early intervention begins before your child is 3 years old. Intervention may need to change many times during your child's life to help fit his or her needs. Providers will work with you and everyone who takes care of your child. This will help make sure everyone knows how to support your child.
  • Therapy may be recommended. The goal of therapy is to help your child feel confident and supported. Support may include social skill, behavior, speech, or physical therapy. Therapy may also help your child tolerate certain sounds and smells more easily. A therapist may also help your child with sleep problems. The therapist can help your child create a relaxing bedtime routine and find ways to make his or her room comfortable.

Help support your child:

Your child may have trouble sleeping. He or she may not want to eat healthy foods. This can lead to weight control problems, such as obesity. Your child may feel anxious or often have stomach pain or diarrhea. He or she may have attention problems such as ADD or ADHD. Your child may wander and leave the house without being noticed. The following can help you support your child and keep him or her safe and healthy:

  • Keep a schedule. Your child may be comforted by routines. Introduce changes slowly. Make activity a part of your child's daily schedule. Regular exercise can help reduce your child's stress and anxiety.
  • Show your child how you interact with others. For example, introduce yourself to other people while your child is with you. Tell your child the steps before you do them, such as saying hello and exchanging names. After you and the new person meet, go over the steps again with your child. Give him or her opportunities to practice social interaction. Do not force it. He or she will not get better at interaction if you force it. Your child may be open to being introduced to a new person you are meeting, but ask first.
  • Be patient. Your child will have an easier time calming down and communicating if you stay calm. You may feel frustrated if your child becomes upset often. It may help to take a short break. Make sure your child is safe and with a responsible adult before you step away.
  • Build on and celebrate your child's strengths. Help your child find activities he or she enjoys and does well. Your child may have amazing strengths, such as advanced abilities with music or math. Encourage your child to try new things, but do not force him or her. Encourage your child as he or she tries something new or gains new skills.
  • Talk to officials at your child's school. Your child may need support at school. He or she may need help feeling more comfortable in class. An individualized education program (IEP) may be used through high school graduation. The IEP identifies your child's learning needs and helps teachers understand how to help him or her learn. The IEP may help your child build skills he or she will need after high school.
  • Work with healthcare providers to create a meal plan for your child. If your child will eat only specific foods, work with healthcare providers to plan meals and snacks. Healthcare providers may suggest blending foods your child will eat with others he or she refuses. This may help your child get the nutrients he or she needs.
  • Have a bedtime routine. Sleep problems are common in children with ASD. A routine that calms your child before bedtime may help him or her fall asleep or stay asleep more easily. Have your child go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day. This may help decrease sleep problems. You may want to install motion alarms in your house. These alarms will wake you if your child gets out of bed at night. Talk to your child's healthcare provider about other ways to help keep your child safe.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

For support and more information:

  • Autism Speaks
    1 East 33rd Street, 4th Floor
    New York , NY 10016
    1 East 33rd Street, 4th Floor
    New York , NY 10016
    Phone: 1- 888 - 288-4762
    Web Address:
  • Autism Society of America
    4340 East-West Highway
    Bethesda , MD 20814-3067
    Phone: 1- 800 - 328-8476
    Web Address:

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder (Discharge Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.