The Importance of Understanding and Listening

Listening looks different for every child, but for children with autism, it is important to remember that our eyes are not our ears.

A most important initial step to understanding your child is by obtaining the best comprehensive evaluation, identifying the child’s strengths and weaknesses, having questions answered, and developing a plan for intervention. 

Parents and families need help and hope. They need to believe their child will improve and has a chance for a meaningful life.

There are no hard-and-fast rules on how to communicate with a child with ASD. But many family members have had success with these tips:

  • Be patient. It often takes a child with ASD longer to process information. You may need to slow down your conversation to their speed. Long pauses can be helpful.

  • Teach the child how to express anger without being too aggressive.  Children with ASD should know that they don't have to hold their anger and frustration inside.

  • Be persistent but resilient.  Don't let your feelings get hurt if the child does not respond to you as you'd like. Children with ASD may have trouble both showing and controlling their emotions. They can be blunt in their responses. Don't take this personally.

  • Always stay positive.  Children with ASD respond best to positive reinforcement. Be sure to talk about or reward good behavior often. Be generous with compliments for good behavior.

  • Ignore irritating attention-getting behavior.  A child with ASD may act badly at times to get you to focus on them. Ignoring this behavior is often the best way to prevent it. Also talk about and reward the child's good behavior often.

  • Interact through physical activity.  Children with ASD tend to have short attention spans. This is especially true when it comes to communicating. Running around and playing outside may be a better way of sharing time together. It will also let them relax and feel calmer.

  • Be affectionate and respectful.  Children with ASD often need a hug, just like other children. Sometimes they need this much more than other children. But some children don't like to be touched at all, even light contact can distress them. Respect their personal space. Never force physical affection on an unwilling child.

  • Show your love and interest.  Children with ASD may have trouble showing their feelings. But they still need to know that you love them. Go out of your way to express your interest, caring, and support.

  • Learn from your child. Your child's special need and abilities may show you a way to look at the world that you've never considered. As difficult as it may be on some days, relaxing, laughing, and enjoying the unique gift that is your child can provide both you and your family with many rewards.

  • Believe. A child with autism is first and foremost a child. They are a growing person with unknown possibilities. Believe in what the child can do. Don’t define the child by a diagnosis.  

  • Take care of yourself. It’s OK to take a break. Join parent support groups. Or ask understanding family and friends to care for your child so you can recharge. School psychologists and counselors can also provide resources to help you.

It can be challenging to interact with a child or grandchild with ASD. But it's one of the most important things you can do to help that child learn. Research shows that early, frequent, and loving involvement of family members is one of the best ways to help children with ASD. 

One of the most wonderful things about a book is its ability to reveal to us a little piece of ourselves. When we can relate to a story or a character, we are left with a better understanding of who we are and what our purpose may be.

This might be most true for children on the autism spectrum. Because things like relating to others, understanding emotions, and making and keeping friends are common challenges faced by children with autism, reading about autistic characters can often act as an outlet and a learning tool to discovering one’s own place in the world. Learn more here



  • Thank you. It makes a lot of sense. I have been applying some of the techniques in the article. I will be incorporating a few others.

  • Thank you! This really was good to know and to help reassure that I’m doing the right things.

    Tammy Krueger
  • Thank you for sharing such positive informative information. Very much appreciated.

    Kim Hanserd
  • Found it rather interesting as I have done various courses on ASD n read books on it as I have a son with ASD n found that it helps.

    Paula varley

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