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What It's Like to Have Autism

For caregivers, understanding autism symptoms is key to coping with them.

Autism Caregiving: Treatment Helps

Caregiving for a loved one with autism can be tremendously difficult. But happily, treatment can often make a difference.

“The good thing is that people with autism can learn many of the things that they don’t know intuitively,” says Shore. “It just requires direct instruction.” Skills that neurotypical children learn unconsciously – such as evaluating a social situation or reading a person’s behavior – can be taught, step-by-step.

There are many different approaches to instructing children with autism, including the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the Miller Method, and the Floortime method. Shore says that there is no single best approach. As a caregiver, the key is to be flexible, to try different approaches, and see what works best with your child.

The Importance of the Autism Caregiver

Caregivers also need to understand how important they are. Both Berman and Shore give a lot of credit to their parents for their tenacity and dedication. In the early 1960s, experts told Shore’s parents that their son’s autism symptoms were so severe that his case was hopeless and he needed to be institutionalized. But his parents defied the experts and kept fighting, and they were right.

McGreevy is a passionate advocate for her son too. While she tries to accommodate his autism symptoms and keep a home environment in which he feels safe, she’s also working constantly to expand his horizons. “I think because of his condition, my son would be fine being stagnant,” she tells WebMD. “If he’s going to experience new things and grow and take the next step, I need to push him.”

For a caregiver, empathy is key. Just forcing a person with autism into the “real world” won’t work. Instead, the first step is to try to understand his perspective a little better.

“As a parent or caregiver, you need to go into the world of the person with autism first,” says Shore. “Then you can start guiding that person out.”

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Reviewed on April 22, 2009

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