Empowering the child or young person with autism

Choice and control

Children and young people with autism and their carers should have input into how they would like to be supported.  In other words, working with the child and young person and their carers is important to ensure they are given choice and control.  This ensures that everyone is involved in the process of change with the aim of building capacity to empower and instil confidence to allow for growth and development.

There is a need to ‘shift the balance of power’ away from “doing to” to “working with” people to recognise the many unique qualities and strengths of children and young people with autism.


As a parent or professional living or working with a child or young person with autism, learning to be a good observer is essential in getting to know the child or young person’s individual strengths and challenges.  This will allow for a better insight into what each and every child or young person brings to the learning environment.

You can make modifications to your environment based on the strategies that we suggest, when you are teaching children with autism.

Questions you may wish to ask yourself?

How can you accommodate the child’s areas of difficulty while using their strengths?

For example, although some children or young person with autism may have difficulty understanding verbal instructions, many display strong skills for following visual instructions. How can this strength be used to enhance their learning experience, to empower them to ask for support or help or to improve their self-advocacy skills?

Strengths and Challenges

While observing, you will see that every child has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, unique set of skills, or ability profile. Through working with many children and young people we have found that, they often share many strengths and often encounter a range of challenges.

Typical Strengths

  • Respond well to structure, consistency and repetition
  • Learn new skills better in a quiet environment with few distractions
  • 9 out of 10 children and young people are visual learners
  • Visual-spatial tasks
  • Enjoy contact with familiar adults in social play, including different forms of physical contact
  • Learn using prompts – supports such as visual and verbal cues and physical guidance (e.g., hand over hand teaching)
  • Learn new skills when taught in a supportive environment (i.e., supports, not just natural contingencies or rules)
  • May have areas of relative strength in overall ability profile (e.g., puzzles, drawing, music, facts about topic of special interest)
  • Pleasure in success with a challenge/activity
  • May be cuddly and provide nice feedback when hugged
  • May smile, make eye contact, laugh, display a variety of emotions

Typical Challenges

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