Tips to Support Children with Autism in Youth Programs

Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations

Here are some ways youth programs and organizations can best support participants with autism. This excerpt comes from Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations. 

Be Welcoming and Supportive

  • Meet the child where he is and learn from him.
  • Respect him as an individual.
  • Do not talk about him in his presence as if he isn’t there.
  • Set clear expectations and boundaries.
  • Be consistent.
  • Develop and implement structure.
  • Practice and provide repetition to help with understanding and to build skills.
  • Expect growth. Keep your standards high.

Develop Strategies to Compensate for Challenges

  • Offer preferred seating or placement and allow for additional response time.
  • Provide organizational supports like written schedules, lists, visual cues, and specific verbal directions.
  • Be aware of a child’s sensory needs. Avoid or prepare for triggers like fire alarms.
  • Give breaks for selfregulation.
  • With small steps and supports, allow the participant to exhibit success.
  • Reward what you want to see with positive reinforcement. Use the child’s interests to engage and motivate him.

Educate and Communicate

  • Educate other youth participants about autism.
  • Promote acceptance and understanding among peers and staff.
  • Support social development with roleplaying, modeling, and rewards. Make sure to include typical peers.
  • Communicate with family members and caregivers.
  • Ask questions and share what works. Problems solve what isn’t working.
  • Always keep learning and be creative.


  • Relax and have fun.
  • Celebrate success.
  • Treasure the individual.

Learn more about Inclusion in Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations.