Living With A Severe Case Of Autism

The spectrum disorder known as autism includes three levels – mild, moderate, and severe.

Every child with autism requires care, support, and supervision, but a child with severe autism has extensive needs.

What To Expect When Raising Child With A Severe Case Of Autism

Parenting a child with a severe case of autism includes a variety of challenges, rewards, and adventures.

Let’s look at a what it’s like living with a child with severe autism.


Common behaviors of children with severe autism can include the following:

  • Aggression
  • Headbanging
  • Vocal outbursts
  • Wandering or eloping
  • Repetitive or self-stimulating behaviors like arm flapping, rocking, or door slamming

For the most part, these behaviors occur because the children are unaware of danger, need stimulation, or cannot express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. These unpredictable behaviors can be disruptive and scary and often make social visits and errands impossible.

As a caregiver, you can’t always predict your child’s actions, but you can identify triggers, watch out for signs of impending behaviors, and childproof your home.

You may also be able to use therapy and other tools to improve your child’s communication and reduce disruptive, violent behavior.

Sensory Challenges

Sensitivities to sounds, tastes, smells, lights, and touch affect many kids with a severe case of autism. Loud noises, certain clothing textures and tags, and even the aroma of cleaning supplies can be overwhelming.

Out of respect for your child’s sensory challenges, you will make numerous adaptations to your home. You may need to limit noise, serve certain and predictable foods, and avoid strong aromas.

These adjustments give your child with severe autism the environment he or she needs to feel comfortable, but they also require the rest of your family to make sacrifices and set aside their personal preferences.

Speech, Language and Communication

Some children with severe autism can speak words or sentences. Others are nonverbal and may use only sounds, grunts, squeals, and behavior to tell people how they feel.

Children with a severe case of autism may never hold meaningful conversations or say “I love you” to family members.

You may not be able to converse with your child, but you will be able to understand their needs and wants as you spend time getting to know him or her.

Your verbal or nonverbal child may also potentially learn to share his or her thoughts through speech therapy, behavioral interventions, and adaptive communication devices.


Children with severe autism may have low cognitive function along with communication and social challenges. Because a traditional classroom is difficult to navigate, these children must attend a special school or classroom designed for children with autism.

In addition to parenting your child with severe autism, you’ll need to become an educational advocate. You must find and possibly fund suitable schooling then read and understand your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Also, plan to verify through ongoing teacher conferences and check-ins that your child’s academic needs are met, particularly if your nonverbal son or daughter is unable to tell you what happened in school that day.

Medical Care

Often, a child with a severe case of autism experiences a variety of physical challenges.

Physical challenges may include:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Food allergies
  • Epilepsy
  • Sleep problems
  • Among other concerns

Communication limitations may prevent these children from verbally telling caregivers how they feel. Instead, they may exhibit behaviors like rocking or moaning to indicate that they’re in pain.

To help your child manage physical challenges, you’ll need to get to know your child and interpret his or her actions and behaviors as you figure out what’s wrong.

Sometimes, you’ll wish for clairvoyant skills to read your child’s mind, and getting him or her appropriate care will feel like a game of charades. You’ll want to work closely with your child’s pediatrician and other specialists as you ensure your child receives the medical care he or she needs.

Social Interactions

A lack of social skills, communication challenges, and sensory issues deter relationship building and the social interactions of many children with severe cases of autism. They may be unable or have no desire to interact with others, which limits a family’s ability to participate in social or extended family gatherings, religious services, and support group meetings.

Fortunately, respite care can meet your child’s needs and free you to attend beneficial social events.

Also, play therapy can be useful as you equip your child and his or her siblings and peers to interact.

Family Relationships

Because children with severe autism need such intense care, family relationships may be strained. Caregivers feel exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally while siblings and extended family members may feel neglected.

Asking for help can relieve some of your responsibility. Hire respite care and spend time nurturing yourself, your marriage, and other relationships.

Also, seek help from a case manager, therapists, and other autism specialists as you meet your child’s needs and improve family and personal bonds.

Future Outlook Of Raising A Child With A Severe Case Of Autism

Most parents dream of what their grown children will do and become. Part of that dream includes a career, family, and independence.

Parents of a child with a severe case of autism must let go of those dreams. Children with this condition may be able to perform some independent tasks, but they typically do not achieve complete independence and will need care for the remainder of their lives.

The burden of caring for your child for the next few decades can keep you awake at night.

For your peace of mind, plan for your child’s future care. Invest in therapeutic strategies now to help your child reach his or her full potential. Also, consider safe, nurturing housing options like a group home or assisted living facility where your child can live when you can no longer meet his or her needs.

Parenthood requires every ounce of your time, attention, and energy, especially when your child has a severe case of autism. While the task is consuming and exhausting, it can also be rewarding.

Understand as much as you can about severe autism, and reach out to experts and supportive social groups as you ensure your child’s safety, functionality, and quality of life while caring for yourself and the rest of your family.

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