Managing and Coping With Autism

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a term used to describe a range of types of autism, all of which may have very different presentations. Autism is strongly influenced by both environmental and genetic factors, which both combine to cause a variety of autism symptoms. Developing skills to help manage the emotional, physical, and mental aspects of the disorder are helpful to both the person with autism and their caregivers.

coping with autism
TeMika Grooms / Verywell


Emotional issues associated with autism spectrum disorder may include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-injurious behaviors

These issues may be mild, moderate, severe, or altogether absent depending on the individual. Managing these symptoms is an important part to adequately coping with autism, as each diagnosis can cause behavioral problems of their own.

It is important to understand certain emotional issues may simply be a part of the diagnosis and not the result of poor coping.

Insight into one's condition can still cause distress if an individual with autism does not have the appropriate supports, coping skills, or social network to assist with managing the diagnosis. Impaired social skills associated with an autism diagnosis may cause further difficulties with emotional regulation.

If an individual with autism has insight into their condition, they may experience isolation and poor attachment skills as a result of impaired social interactions. These and more issues can be addressed by behavioral treatments to assist with both skill-building and symptom management.

Treatments for behavioral issues include:

These treatments focus on visual processing skills, fine motor skills, self-regulation, self-care skills, handwriting, developmental milestones, organization, executive functioning, and social skills.


Medical issues which may accompany autism include gastrointestinal disorders, seizures, feeding issues, and insomnia. These can be managed through medication and a combination of the aforementioned treatments.


There are a growing number of families looking toward gluten-free, casein-free, and dairy-free diets in an attempt to mitigate symptoms, particularly behavioral symptoms, associated with autism. Though these diets are mainly meant to address behaviors and overall emotional health of someone with autism, growing trends also claim they support some of the medical issues or symptoms associated with autism.

While some families and children with autism have seen some positive effect from using these diets, there is minimal scientific evidence showing special diets cause a decrease in certain symptoms.

As with all treatments suggested for autism, it is important to consult a healthcare provider before implementing anything. If you feel as if certain foods cause an increase in any of your child’s symptoms, keeping a record of food habits and reactions will help inform your healthcare provider as to specific allergies or food sensitivities.


Social support is incredibly important for both the person with autism and their caregivers. There are many places to turn for support, and organizations to assist the entire family.

Support Groups

Support groups such as local chapters or affiliates of the Autism Society, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and AutismUp can provide sound resources along with emotional support from others experiencing similar courses of autism. Those interested in advocacy efforts can seek opportunities through ASAN, which looks for individuals who may seek volunteer roles.

Following online autism communities and social media pages of organizations like the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network (AWN), can assist with tips, resources, and additional advocacy efforts. All of these are great mediums to handle the stress and varying trials which may make a diagnosis of autism difficult. Caregiver support groups can also prove helpful for those parents or family members who assist in caring for a loved one with autism.

Health Education

Health education and promotion is also a key factor in ensuring each individual with autism receive evidence-based care along with well-rounded support. There are many resources of varying forms available to support those with autism along with their caregivers and loved ones.

This large number of resources is positive, however, everyone should be cautioned to find and follow reliable and credible resources for disease management. When in doubt, seek counsel from any medical professional for evidence-based resources to successfully assist with managing autism and its associated conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What common triggers can upset someone with autism?

    Everyone with autism is different. However, changes in routines, physical pain or discomfort, entering a new setting (such as arriving at school), and communication difficulties can upset someone with autism. This may lead to overwhelm, which can be followed by loss of control over behavior (often called a “meltdown”).

  • What can help prevent overwhelm in people with autism?

    First, know the warning signs and triggers of the person you’re caring for. Then, take steps to prepare for triggers or other challenging situations. For example, use a headset to play soothing music if you have to go to a crowded place. You can also rehearse ways to manage issues such as anxiety in advance.

  • How can you help someone with autism calm down quickly?

    Create a calm environment by removing distractions, clutter, and loud noise. Relaxation techniques—such as counting to 10, deep breathing, or exercise—can also help calm someone with autism in a moment of stress. Also consider using calming apps to help control anxiety and other powerful emotions.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Guan J, Cai JJ, Ji G, Sham PC. Commonality in dysregulated expression of gene sets in cortical brains of individuals with autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Transl Psychiatry. 2019;9(1):152. doi:10.1038/s41398-019-0488-4

  3. Mckenzie R, Dallos R. Autism and attachment difficulties: Overlap of symptoms, implications and innovative solutions. Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017;22(4):632-648. doi:10.1177/1359104517707323

  4. Relimpio lópez MI, Espejo arjona F, Garrido hermosilla AM, Laborda guirao T, Gómez escobar AJ, Rodríguez de la rúa franch E. Surgical Approaches for Vitreomacular Tractions. Ophthalmologica. 2016;235(1):62. doi:10.1159/000363562

  5. Sathe N, Andrews JC, Mcpheeters ML, Warren ZE. Nutritional and Dietary Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics. 2017;139(6) doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0346

  6. National Autistic Society. Meltdowns—A Guide for All Audiences. August 14, 2020.

  7. Autism Treatment Network. How to Use Irritability Strategies to Help Your Child with Autism.

Additional Reading

By Brittany Ferri
Brittany Ferri, MS, OTR-L, CCTP, is an occupational therapist, consultant, and author specializing in psychosocial rehab.