How To Handle Socially Inappropriate Behavior in Public

Therapy room at Lighthouse Autism Center with toys on a table with blue chairs and book shelves above

How To Handle Socially Inappropriate Behavior in Public

Handling inappropriate behavior from autistic children can be challenging, especially in public settings. With the right strategies and understanding, it’s possible to effectively manage and address these behaviors in a way that supports the child’s needs and promotes their well-being. 

How To Handle Socially Inappropriate Behavior in Public

Handling inappropriate behavior from autistic children can be challenging, especially in public settings where social expectations are high. Even as caregivers, it is often difficult to differentiate between common autistic behaviors and misbehavior. 

With the right strategies and understanding of autistic behavior, it is possible to effectively identify, address, and manage challenging behaviors. This guide will provide practical tips for parents, caregivers, and educators to navigate and support autistic children in public settings. 

Understanding autism and inappropriate behavior

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social communication challenges, sensory sensitivities, and repetitive behaviors. Socially inappropriate behavior in autistic children may manifest in various forms, such as meltdowns, self-stimulatory behaviors, aggression, or non-compliance. It is essential to recognize that these behaviors are often communication tools used by the child to express their needs, discomfort, or anxiety and not just naughtiness or misbehavior. 

Unique challenges faced by autistic children in public settings

Public settings can be overwhelming for an autistic child with behavioral problems due to sensory overload, unpredictable social interactions, and rigid expectations. These challenges can lead to heightened anxiety and an increased likelihood of exhibiting inappropriate behaviors. It is crucial to consider these factors when addressing and managing their behavior. 

Here are some of the key challenges faced by autistic children. 

Sensory overload

Public places can be overwhelming for autistic children due to increased sensory stimuli, such as loud noises, bright lights, crowded spaces, and unfamiliar smells. These sensory inputs can lead to sensory overload and trigger anxiety or meltdowns. 

Communication barriers

Autistic children may have challenges with expressive and receptive communication skills. In public settings, they may struggle to express their needs, desires, or discomfort, leading to frustration or misunderstandings. 

Social interactions

Engaging in social interactions can be challenging for autistic children. They may find it difficult to interpret social cues, understand non-verbal communication, or initiate and maintain conversations. This can result in feelings of isolation or difficulty making friends. 

Unpredictability and changes

Public settings often involve unpredictable situations, such as unexpected changes in routines, transitions, or disruptions in the environment. Autistic children rely on structure and predictability, so these unexpected changes can cause anxiety and distress. 

Sensory seeking or avoidance behaviors

Autistic children may exhibit sensory seeking or avoidance behaviors in public settings. Some may seek sensory input by engaging in repetitive movements or self-stimulatory (stimming) behaviors, while others may try to avoid certain sensory experiences by covering their ears, avoiding touch, or withdrawing from the environment. 

Lack of understanding and acceptance  

The general public may not always understand or be accepting of autistic behavior. This can lead to judgment, stares, or comments from others, creating a challenging and potentially uncomfortable environment for both the child and their caregivers. 

Practical strategies for addressing inappropriate behavior 

Handling inappropriate behavior requires patience, understanding, and a proactive approach. Here are some practical tips on how to prepare for, deal with, and avoid future socially inappropriate public behavior.  

Identify triggers 

Observe when and where challenging behaviors are most likely to occur. Recognize specific people, locations, times of the day, or sensory experiences that may contribute to the behaviors. Provide appropriate sensory tools or strategies, such as noise-canceling headphones or sensory breaks, to help them regulate their sensory input and prevent sensory overload. 

Teach skills in controlled environments  

Take advantage of situations outside of public settings to teach and reinforce appropriate skills. Practice walking together, waiting in line, sharing toys, or tolerating transitions when demands are minimal. 

Communication and social skills training

Teach the child alternative ways to express their needs and emotions through effective communication strategies. Social skills training can help them navigate social interactions more smoothly. 

Establish clear expectations

Set clear and consistent rules and routines, using visual supports such as visual schedules, videos, or social stories, to help the child understand what is expected of them in public settings. Visual cues can help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) understand expectations and provide a sense of structure and predictability. 

Prepare for outings 

Plan ahead by researching unfamiliar locations and communicating with staff or facility personnel about specific needs or challenges. Familiarize the individual with the environment through virtual tours, pictures, or videos. 

Gradual exposure 

Begin with short trips or visits to help the individual become familiar with new environments and social interactions. Bring along preferred toys or activities to provide comfort and enjoyment during outings. 

Incorporate breaks and sensory regulation 

Individuals with ASD may benefit from taking breaks or finding a calm space when engaging in activities outside their comfort zone. Establish a communication system to indicate the need for breaks or assistance. 

Redirect and distract 

If socially inappropriate behavior arises, gently redirect the child’s attention to a more appropriate activity or provide them with a sensory tool or object that can help redirect their focus. 

Stay calm and supportive 

Knowing how to reduce aggressive behavior in an autistic child can be particularly difficult in the moment. Respond to challenging behaviors with patience and understanding. Remaining calm can help de-escalate the situation. Find a safe and quiet space if necessary, and consider involving supportive family members or friends for assistance. 

Calming strategies 

Teach the child calming techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or self-soothing strategies, to help them regulate their emotions and manage anxiety in public settings. 

Reinforcement and positive behavior support 

Implement a system of positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate behavior. Use praise, rewards, or a token system to reinforce desired behaviors, providing motivation and encouragement for the child. 

Advocate and educate 

Educate others about autism and the challenges faced by autistic children in public settings. Raise awareness by carrying a card explaining autism-related behaviors to share with others who may not understand. This can promote understanding and reduce potential misunderstandings or judgment. 

Seek professional support

Collaborate with professionals, such as behavioral therapists or occupational therapists, who can provide additional guidance and strategies tailored to the child’s specific needs. 

Collaborate with Lighthouse Autism Center 

It is essential to remember that each autistic child is unique, and strategies should be tailored to their individual needs. LAC’s innovative Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy, combined with its large archive of autism resources, is the perfect foundation on which to build an understanding of your autistic child’s needs. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Overcoming Stereotypes

Autism stereotypes are common and can have significant social consequences for autistic children. Misconceptions hinder the acceptance and inclusion of autistic children. Challenging these stereotypes is vital for creating a more understanding and supportive society.

Overcoming Stereotypes 

We are all prone to prejudices based on stereotypes, especially when it comes to autism. Whenever someone mentions autism, many of us conjure an image of Dustin Hoffman, the card-counting savant in “Rainman.” Others may think of mute, socially withdrawn, awkward, and rigid people who live in an alternate reality.  

The reality is far more complex, and even innocent misrepresentations can have profound social consequences for autistic children. Stemming from a lack of awareness and fear, these stereotypes lead to stigmatization and discrimination. 

Let’s unpack what stereotypes exist, the social consequences of these stereotypes, as well as ways to address them and the effect they have on autistic children.  

Common autism stereotypes

So what are stereotyped behaviors in autism? Autism stereotypes are simplified and often inaccurate beliefs perpetuated by misunderstanding and misinformation. Harmful autism stereotypes include things suggesting people with autism lack empathy, and have intellectual disabilities.  

Lack of empathy 

There is a belief that autistic children lack empathy or are unable to understand others’ emotions. Yet many can experience and express empathy in their unique ways, even though social communication challenges may impact their expression and interpretation of emotions. Empathy exists, but is not often expressed in conventional ways.  

Intellectual disabilities 

The assumption that autistic children have intellectual disabilities is a prevalent stereotype. While some may have specific intellectual challenges, many have average or above-average intelligence. Autism primarily affects social communication, and intelligence levels vary significantly, as you would find in allistic children. 


The portrayal of all autistic individuals as possessing exceptional savant abilities is also misleading. While some exhibit extraordinary skills in specific areas, it does not represent the entire autism spectrum. Most individuals have a wide range of strengths and challenges. 

Socially awkward and withdrawn 

Another stereotyped behavior in autism is that of being socially awkward, withdrawn, or uninterested in social interaction. This is patently untrue. Many autistic folk desire social connections and are able to establish meaningful relationships. Some may have difficulties communicating effectively, while others may have excellent communication skills. 

Rigid and unchanging 

Another stereotype suggests that all autistic individuals are rigid and resistant to change. It has been well documented that preferences for routine and predictability vary among autistic children, depending on where they sit on the spectrum and their individual circumstances. 

Social consequences of autism stereotypes

Society often perpetuates harmful stereotypes about autism that can have far-reaching consequences. The negative impact of these stereotypes manifests in numerous ways, limiting educational opportunities, fostering employment discrimination, promoting social exclusion, and impeding access to healthcare and support services. Here are some of the most common consequences. 

Limited educational opportunities 

One of the most significant impacts of autism stereotypes is limited educational opportunities. Stereotypes portray autistic children as incapable of learning or being successful academically, which leads to low expectations from educators, administrators, and peers. As a result, autistic students may be denied access to mainstream classrooms or subjected to inappropriate educational placements, impeding their intellectual and social development. 

Social exclusion and bullying 

Another major consequence is social exclusion and bullying, robbing autistic children of meaningful relationships and connections while also lowering their self-esteem and damaging their ability to trust others.  

Preconceived notions about social awkwardness or lack of interest in social interaction perpetuate isolation and loneliness. These stereotypes create barriers to forming friendships and participating fully in social activities, leading to a diminished quality of life. 

Ignorance about autism and the bullying of autistic individuals are often related. Bullying autistic children is often a fearful response from allistic children who don’t understand autistic behavior and meet it with derision and cruelty. This seriously impacts autistic children’s ability to connect meaningfully and has a long-lasting impact on their self-esteem.  

If you feel your allistic child may be a bully who is contributing to the social exclusion of an autistic child, here are some tips on how to sensitize them: 

  • Educate your child on autism. 
  • Teach them about universal acceptance through empathy. 
  • Foster tolerance of diversity and difference and teach kindness. 
  • Turn them into autism activists through advocacy. 

Access to appropriate healthcare and support services 

Another significant impact of autism stereotypes is the limited access to appropriate healthcare and support services. Stereotypes perpetuate the misconception that autism is a defect or a problem to be fixed rather than a natural variation in human neurology. This misguided perception can lead to a lack of appropriate interventions, denying autistic individuals the support they need to thrive. 

Ways to address the negative impact of stereotypes 

Overcoming stereotypes about autism requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, educational institutions, and policymakers. By challenging misconceptions, promoting acceptance, and fostering inclusivity, we can create a more equitable and understanding society for autistic children. Here are a few ways we can all help to overcome these stereotypes. 

Education and awareness

Distributing accurate information about autism is crucial to challenging stereotypes. Educational programs in schools, workplaces, and communities can dispel misconceptions and enhance understanding. Awareness campaigns, workshops, and seminars raise consciousness, debunking stereotypes. 

Encouraging personal narratives 

Sharing personal experiences and stories from autistic children and their families challenges stereotypes and provides nuanced understanding. Such narratives humanize the condition, exposing diverse strengths and abilities. Books, blogs, documentaries, and public speaking engagements offer platforms for sharing stories. 

Promoting positive representation

Media shapes societal perceptions significantly. Encouraging accurate and positive portrayals of autism in films, TV shows, and media challenges stereotypes. Portraying autistic individuals as capable and multifaceted combats misconceptions and fosters inclusivity. The best way to promote positive and accurate representation of autism is by engaging with media either created by autistic folk, or where autistic characters are represented by autistic folks. We need to move away from allistic portrayals of autism (and away from the “Rainman” trope entirely). 

Advocacy and support

Active advocacy for the rights and inclusion of autistic children is crucial. Communities, individuals, and organizations can work toward systemic changes, such as inclusive education, employment opportunities, and accessible support services. Amplifying the voices of autism and advocating for their needs helps combat stereotypes. 

Building sensory-friendly environments 

Many autistic children have sensory sensitivities. Creating sensory-friendly environments in schools, public spaces, and events promotes comfort and inclusion. This approach reduces anxiety, and thereby reduces the chance of the child having to self-regulate with “stereotypical” behaviors that may draw unwanted attention to them. 

Building empathy and acceptance 

Promoting empathy and acceptance in our communities and households is vital to challenge stereotypes and foster an inclusive society. Educational programs and workshops bring focus to understanding and appreciation of the unique perspectives and experiences of autistic children. 

Engage with the autism community 

Actively engaging with the autism community, attending support groups, participating in autism-related events, and listening to their experiences provide valuable insights to challenge stereotypes. Meaningful dialogue and involvement of the autism community in decision-making processes ensure their perspectives are respected. 

Access to healthcare 

Access to specialized healthcare, early intervention programs, and therapeutic services is crucial for the well-being and development of autistic children. By dispelling stereotypes and advocating for equitable access to comprehensive services, every child on the spectrum can receive the necessary resources to reach their full potential. 

Break down stereotypes with Lighthouse Autism Center

By implementing these strategies, society can challenge and overcome autism stereotypes. With Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC), you can find many more autism resources to help you advocate for better understanding of the challenges facing autistic children. And with LAC’s Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy, you can prepare your child for the world. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential


Neurodiversity appreciates variations in how our brains work, celebrating the unique experiences of individuals beyond supposed “neurotypical” norms. It rejects the idea of “fixing” conditions like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia, understanding them as different ways of being.


We’ve heard the term often enough, but what is neurodiversity exactly? A simple definition states that neurodiversity is about appreciating the natural variations in how our brains work and acknowledging the unique experiences of individuals who fall outside what is erroneously termed “neurotypical,” such as those who are autistic, have ADHD, dyslexia, and others. It’s a way of understanding that different neurotypes are just different ways of being rather than something that needs fixing.

Let’s look at where the concept began, explore different types of neurodiversity (also called “neurotypes”), discuss things to look out for, and provide practical tips on how to support and enable neurodivergent people to thrive in broader society.

The origins of neurodiversity

The term “neurodiversity” was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s. Singer proposed that neurological differences should be seen as a form of diversity, similar to other forms of human diversity such as ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. The concept gained wider recognition and popularity with the publication of “Neurodiversity: The Birth of an Idea” by journalist Harvey Blume in 1998. 

This study catalyzed a broader neurodiversity movement that took its roots from the autism self-advocacy movement, which was prevalent around the same time. Autistic self-advocates began challenging the pathologizing language and treatment approaches that characterized the prevailing understanding of autism. They asserted that autism is a valid identity and advocated for rights, inclusion, and support that respected their unique experiences and strengths.

The neurodiversity movement gained further momentum through the efforts of organizations like the Autism Network International (ANI), founded by Jim Sinclair, and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), founded by Ari Ne’eman. These organizations focused on promoting the rights and self-determination of autistic individuals, challenging stigmatizing narratives, and advocating for accommodations and support that respected autistic experiences.

The core principles of the neurodiversity movement include the following.

1. Acceptance and inclusion

Neurodiversity advocates argue for accepting neurodivergent individuals as valuable members of society and promoting their full inclusion in all aspects of life.

2. Shift from cure to support

Rather than seeking to cure or eliminate neurodivergent traits, the movement shifts the focus to providing the necessary support, accommodations, and resources to enable neurodivergent individuals to thrive and reach their full potential.

3. Respect for autonomy and self-advocacy

The neurodiversity movement recognizes the autonomy and self-advocacy of neurodivergent individuals, valuing their perspectives and inclusion in decision-making processes that affect their lives.

4. Challenging stigma and discrimination

Neurodiversity advocates work to challenge and dismantle the stigma, discrimination, and ableism that neurodivergent individuals face in various aspects of life, including education, employment, healthcare, and social interactions.

Understanding neurodiversity

Neurodiversity is an inclusive framework that encourages society to value and embrace neurological differences. It challenges the notion that there is a single “normal” or “typical” brain and acknowledges that every individual’s neurology is unique. Just as biodiversity is crucial for the health and resilience of ecosystems, neurodiversity is essential for the richness and vitality of human society.

Common types of neurodiversity

Neurodivergence encompasses a wide range of neurological differences and conditions. Neurodiversity acknowledges that while behaviors listed here are interpreted as disorders in neurotypical conditions, they do not reflect the true capacity of neurodivergent people who thrive in conducive and enabling environments. Here are some of the most commonly recognized types of neurodiversity.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Many people ask, “Is autism a neurodiversity?” The simple answer is no, it is a form of neurodivergence.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by differences in social communication, sensory processing, and repetitive behaviors. Autistic people may have varying strengths and challenges, and their experiences can range from mild to severe.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition broadly defined by difficulties with regulating focus, managing impulsivity, and perceived hyperactivity. Individuals with ADHD may struggle with meeting organizational requirements, experience time blindness, and sustained or hyper focus in mainstream environments and situations.


Dyslexia is a learning difference that affects reading, writing, and language processing. Individuals with dyslexia may have difficulty with letter recognition, decoding words, and spelling, despite having normal intelligence.


Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder, involves challenges with motor coordination and planning. Individuals with dyspraxia may have difficulty with fine and gross motor skills, coordination, and spatial awareness.

Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by involuntary motor and vocal tics. These tics can vary in frequency and severity, and individuals may also experience associated conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, and unease. It involves intense and sustained feelings of apprehension that can interfere with daily life and well-being..)

Less common types of neurodiversity

While some of these may be household terms popularized by memes, social media, and popular culture, they are not as pervasive as you might think.


Dyscalculia, also known as Developmental Dyscalculia (DD), is a specific learning disorder that involves difficulties in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numbers, and performing accurate and fluent calculations.


Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that primarily affects written expression. Individuals with dysgraphia often struggle with spelling, exhibit poor handwriting, and find it challenging to translate their thoughts onto paper. Dysgraphia can manifest as a language-based or non-language-based disorder.

Meares-Irlen Syndrome

Meares-Irlen Syndrome, also known as Irlen Syndrome, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, or Visual Stress, is a perceptual processing disorder. Unlike an optical issue, it involves difficulties in the brain’s ability to process visual information accurately.


Hyperlexia is characterized by precocious and self-taught reading ability in children under the age of 5, along with a heightened fascination for letters, numbers, logos, maps, or visual patterns.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a prevalent mental health condition characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts known as obsessions and repetitive behaviors or rituals called compulsions.


Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon where stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway, like sounds or taste, triggers involuntary experiences in another, like color, resulting in the blending or mixing of senses. This can extend to the blending of letters and shapes into each other.

Indicators of neurodivergence

While each neurodivergent condition has its unique set of characteristics, there are some common indicators of neurodivergence that individuals may face. 

Sensory sensitivities

Many neurodivergent individuals have heightened or diminished sensory sensitivities. They may experience hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to stimuli such as sounds, lights, textures, or tastes, which can affect their daily lives and interactions.

Communication differences

Neurodivergent individuals may experience challenges in social communication and non-verbal cues. They may have difficulty understanding social norms, maintaining eye contact, interpreting facial expressions, or understanding others’ perspectives.

Executive functioning challenges

Executive functions encompass cognitive processes like planning, organization, time management, and impulse control. Neurodivergent individuals may struggle with one or more of these functions, affecting their ability to prioritize tasks, stay organized, and regulate their behavior.

Special interests and hyperfocus 

Many neurodivergent individuals develop intense interests or passions in specific subjects. These interests often involve in-depth knowledge and dedication, becoming a source of motivation and enjoyment for the individual.

Supporting neurodivergent people

Creating an inclusive and supportive environment for neurodivergent people is crucial. Here are some practical tips on how to support and foster inclusion.

Education and awareness

Educate yourself and others about neurodiversity. Learn about the specific challenges and strengths associated with different neurodivergent conditions. Neurodiversity awareness and knowledge will help dispel misconceptions and foster understanding.

Person-centered approach

Recognize that every neurodivergent individual is unique. Focus on their strengths, talents, and interests rather than solely on their challenges. Adopt a person-centered approach that emphasizes individual needs, accommodations, and support.

Open communication

Foster open and honest communication with neurodivergent individuals. Listen to their perspectives and experiences, and provide a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Validate their experiences and work together to find solutions and support.

Sensory-friendly environments

Create sensory-friendly environments that accommodate the sensory needs of neurodivergent individuals. This can include providing quiet spaces, reducing visual clutter, using soft lighting, and allowing for flexibility in sensory experiences.

Accommodations and support

Offer accommodations and support that cater to individual needs. This may include visual aids, assistive technologies, flexible schedules, clear instructions, and additional time for tasks or transitions.

Inclusive education and employment

Advocate for inclusive education and employment practices that embrace neurodiversity. Promote environments that value diverse learning styles, provide appropriate support, and foster inclusive interactions.

Promote acceptance and empathy

Foster a culture of acceptance and empathy by promoting understanding, tolerance, and respect for neurodivergent individuals. Encourage neurotypical individuals to learn from and appreciate the unique perspectives and contributions of their neurodivergent peers.

Celebrate neurodiversity with Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC)

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we understand and support neurodiversity and strive to create an inclusive and compassionate society. Our vast archive of autism resources, combined with our innovative Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy, forms a formidable arsenal for autistic children to thrive in a society still learning to accept neurodiversity.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

LAC Expands Services in Warsaw, Indiana!

ABA Therapy Center in Central Warsaw, Indiana is Now Open

Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) continues to expand, now with a network of centers in four states – quite a journey from its humble beginnings serving four families in one building to now serving hundreds of families across four states for over a decade. It is truly amazing.

Our state-of-the-art children’s autism center is now open and providing additional autism services to 25 children and their families and creating over 35 new jobs in the area. 

Our mission is to provide the highest quality autism services to children and families by expanding services in Warsaw, Indiana. Lighthouse Autism Center has committed to continuing our mission in Warsaw, Indiana as the need for ABA services continues to grow. Lighthouse is determined to fill that need by expanding services in underserved locations with facilities that can accommodate a larger capacity of learners, helping more families and children with autism, reach their goals.

Autism center for speech and language

Lighthouse Autism Center is the Midwest’s leading autism therapy provider. With beautiful facilities that promote natural and play-based learning, and a team of highly trained and compassionate clinicians, Lighthouse Autism Center brings together compassionate care and clinical excellence to offer the highest quality ABA therapy to children with autism.

With a unique clinical model called Lighthouse Fusion®, children at Lighthouse are making greater progress, faster, all while having fun. While other ABA centers typically keep ABA and speech therapies separate, Lighthouse Fusion brings these two therapies together into one enhanced therapy solution. We invite you to learn more about how this innovative clinical model is helping to unlock each child’s potential. 

To learn more about Lighthouse Autism Center or enroll your child, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at 574-387-4313 or visit

Winona Lake Center contact information

109 E Winona Ave

Warsaw, Indiana 46580

Family Outreach Phone: 574-387-4313

Don’t see an autism treatment center listed near you? Contact us and let us know the area you are in, and we will notify you when we have a center opening near you!

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Do Siblings of Autistic Children Suffer Increased Stress?

Growing up with an autistic sibling presents unique challenges. By addressing sibling stress, providing support, promoting communication, and practicing self-care, we can support the well-being of allistic siblings and the entire family. 

Do Siblings of Autistic Children Suffer Increased Stress? 

Growing up with an autistic sibling has its own unique challenges for brothers and sisters. According to a research paper on siblings of autistic children (The Quality of Life among Siblings of Autistic Individuals: A Scoping Review), “non-autistic siblings of autistic individuals experienced decreased psychological well-being, less perceived social support, increased aggressiveness and conflict-proneness, and higher levels of anxiety and stress impacting their quality of life.” 

By understanding and addressing sibling stress, providing support, fostering open communication, and promoting self-care, we can create an environment that supports the well-being of all family members.  

Together, we can ensure that children not only cope but also thrive in their relationships with their autistic siblings, fostering a stronger and more inclusive family bond. Let’s delve into the main challenges faced by allistic (non-autistic) siblings and explore some tips on how to help them cope with their autistic brothers and sisters. 

Main challenges of having an autistic sibling 

It is difficult to single out generic issues that affect families with an autistic child or children. It is especially complex when trying to understand the effects of autism on siblings, given that all families are different and all children are different within those families.  

For example, a younger sibling has always lived with autism in the family but may struggle to establish their own identity within the family dynamic while an older sibling may resent the loss of attention to the autistic sibling who came later. Combined with the personalities and temperaments of each child, and even the nature of the autistic sibling, dynamics can vary considerably. However, it is important to be aware of the issues that can arise from the specific dynamic between allistic children and their autistic siblings.   

Here are some common issues that have been highlighted on how autism affects siblings. 

Family dynamics

How a family responds to having an autistic child has a significant impact on allistic siblings. In some cases, when parents or guardians of an autistic child blame each other for the challenges it brings, it can lead to a separation or divorce.  

One guardian may end up with custody of both children and feel overwhelmed, angry, and frustrated. When the demands of autism become too much, this guardian might walk away or react with anger. As a result, the allistic child grows up in a chaotic environment, learning that challenges can strain family dynamics. 

At a more practical level, the daily routines and dynamics of the family can be significantly impacted by the needs and demands of an autistic child. Siblings may have to adapt to changes in schedules, limited family outings, or altered family dynamics, which can create stress and a sense of imbalance. 


Embarrassment is a tough challenge for siblings of autistic people. Children can be judgmental and may make hurtful comments about their autistic siblings. In response, they need to develop skills to support their autistic sibling and confront ableist bias as they grow older.  

Emotional impact

Having an autistic sibling means the whole family has to make adjustments. Allistic siblings may experience a range of emotions, including confusion, frustration, embarrassment, or even guilt. They may feel a sense of responsibility or worry for their sibling’s well-being, especially in social situations or when witnessing their struggles. It’s really important to take care of the mental health of the children who aren’t autistic so they don’t develop feelings of resentment towards their autistic sibling.  

Often, they have to give in and make compromises. They may have to watch the same movie over and over again, leave a fun event earlier than they’d like, or even say “no” to throwing a big party, just to make sure their autistic sibling is comfortable. And as they get older, these siblings might realize that their parents have less time and money to help out with things like college, weddings, or buying a home. 

Great expectations

Autistic siblings often require additional attention, support, and resources. This can lead to siblings feeling overlooked or neglected, as parental focus may be primarily directed toward meeting the needs of the autistic child.  

Even at a young age, siblings of autistic children are often expected to navigate their own emotions, take on additional household responsibilities, and put their own desires on hold. Independence at an early age is not uncommon, and comes with benefits, but also has it’s pitfalls. 

As they grow up, these siblings may find themselves shouldering even more responsibility for their autistic sibling, especially when it becomes challenging for their parents or guardians to manage everything. It’s a journey that requires understanding, compassion, and a willingness to lend a helping hand within the family unit. 

Communication and relationship differences

Siblings may find it challenging to establish typical sibling relationships due to differences in communication styles, social interactions, and play patterns. They may struggle to connect with their autistic sibling on a deeper level or face difficulties in engaging in shared activities. Conversely, siblings may develop more of a parent/child relationship with their autistic sibling, which brings a different dynamic and feeling of increased responsibility at a young age.   

Financial pressures

Money can play a significant role in the lives of families raising an autistic child. While it’s possible to navigate autism with limited financial resources, it can be incredibly challenging. Accessing resources, researching therapies, and attending appointments become harder for parents with hourly jobs or without internet access. 

And when those limited financial resources are primarily allocated to services for an autistic child, there may be little left for the needs of other children. College funds might be redirected to autism therapy, and additional expenses like fitting schools or respite care may require sacrifices. This can lead to resentment from allistic siblings towards both their guardians and their autistic sibling. 

Overwhelmed parents or guardians may lack the energy to assist with homework, coaching, transportation, or other typical caregiving activities. They may be unaware of school issues, emotional challenges, or potentially risky behaviors. 

Tips on how to help children with autistic siblings cope 

While there is no one way to deal with the dynamics between siblings, there are a few tips on how to help your allistic child deal with their autistic siblings. 

Education and communication

Providing children with age-appropriate information about autism can help them understand their brother or sister better. Open and honest communication within the family can foster empathy, reduce confusion, and promote understanding.  

Children may have misconceptions, such as thinking autism is contagious or caused by their own behavior. Discussing how autism affects their siblings specifically, helps children see them as a whole person with strengths and challenges.  

The first step on how to help siblings understand autism is to start talking about autism when they begin to understand or notice differences. Adapt the conversation based on their age and understanding. Ask what they already know, use age-appropriate language, and be prepared to explain multiple times. Open communication fosters understanding and empathy among siblings, creating a supportive family environment. 

Individual attention

Setting aside dedicated time for each child is crucial. It communicates that their feelings and experiences are valued and boosts their confidence and sense of belonging within the family. 

When allistic children have a positive self-perception, it can enhance their relationship with their autistic siblings.  

Create special moments by dedicating regular time each day to activities like bedtime stories or sharing positive moments. Additionally, listen attentively to your children’s thoughts and make time for enjoyable outings. Consider arranging trusted caregivers to look after the autistic child, allowing you to spend more quality time with their allistic siblings. 

Foster positive interactions

Siblings of autistic children often have positive feelings towards their brothers or sisters, but their relationships may not always be as close due to challenges in social communication.  

Encourage siblings to engage in activities that promote bonding and positive interactions. Finding common interests or creating structured activities that allow siblings to connect and have fun together can strengthen their relationship.  

For instance, engaging in shared interests like playing with trains or participating in basketball can create opportunities for inclusive play and enjoyable interactions among siblings. Finding common ground and promoting inclusive activities can strengthen sibling relationships and create lasting memories. 

Seek professional support

Consider involving therapists or counselors who specialize in supporting families with autistic children. They can provide guidance, strategies, and emotional support to both parents and siblings.  

There are also various organizations available to provide support for siblings of autistic children, such as Siblings of Autism, the Sibling Support Project, and Sibs Journey.  

These organizations offer valuable resources and assistance. Additionally, it is beneficial to explore local resources in your area to discover support groups, respite care services, and specialized programs specifically designed to support siblings.  

Mental well-being and self-care for siblings 

It is essential to prioritize the well-being of siblings. Encourage them to engage in self-care activities, such as hobbies, sports, or spending time with friends, to help alleviate stress and promote their overall mental and emotional well-being. 

It’s also important to be attentive to your allistic children’s feelings and validate them. When your child expresses frustration, acknowledge their emotions. Often siblings feel guilty  communicating their frustrations with their autistic siblings, especially to their parents, because they know you are also overwhelmed. Engage in open conversations with your children about their feelings in a non-judgmental manner.   

Collaborate with your children to find positive ways to channel their emotions, such as drawing or painting. By sharing your own feelings, you help your allistic children realize that their emotions are normal. 

Manage the children fairly

Ensuring fairness among your children is crucial, and establishing clear family rules can aid in achieving this. Strive to create family rules that are fair and consistent for all your children whenever possible and implement strategies that encourage positive behavior in all your children. 

Avoid accepting aggressive or hurtful behavior from your autistic child if you wouldn’t tolerate it from your other children. Encourage all of your children to contribute to family life; sharing responsibilities within the home fosters unity and imparts essential independence skills. Tailor tasks and chores to accommodate your children’s diverse ages and strengths. 

Grow together with Lighthouse Autism Center 

Among the many autism resources available at Lighthouse Autism Center is a large community of families who deal with the dynamics and challenges laid out in this blog. Join them in their pursuit of better sibling relationships through treatments like LAC’s innovative Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy to help their autistic children better navigate family life.  

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

How Does Dual Certification Benefit Learners at Lighthouse?

Lighthouse Autism Center has a team of dual-certified clinicians who are Board Certified Behavior Analysts and speech-language pathologists. These experts ensure every learner receives exceptional treatment. Explore benefits of dual certification, types available, and the qualifications required. 

Two Lighthouse Autism Center members of staff sat at a table wearing face masks playing with slime with a child

How Does Dual Certification Benefit Learners at Lighthouse?

Dual certification in any healthcare field is an impressive accomplishment that showcases a clinician’s expertise in two, often separate, but related areas of treatment. In ABA, clinicians are required to obtain certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), which is a recognized standard in the industry. Dually-certified BCBAs, often have additional training, degrees, or licensure in other related fields.  

This combination of certifications allows professionals to integrate different therapies and derive a deeper understanding of their work while offering a more comprehensive approach to helping autistic people or those with other developmental disabilities. 

Let’s take a look at what it means to be dual certified, different types of dual certifications, what it takes to achieve, and why Lighthouse Autism Center’s team of dual-certified clinicians gives your child the best treatment opportunities.  

How does dual certification enhance ABA services?

Dual certification refers to the achievement of holding two distinct certifications. Within the field of ABA, clincians are considered dual-certified when they  have obtained certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) along with an additional certification in another related field. 

The purpose of dual certification is to broaden and deepen the knowledge and expertise of professionals working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disabilities. By combining expertise from multiple disciplines, practitioners can offer a more comprehensive and integrated approach to assessment and treatment. 

Different types of dual certification, often seen in ABA settings

There are several different types of dually certified clinicians you might find in the autism space. Some of the more common ones include: 

BCBA and Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

This combination allows professionals to address both behavioral and communication challenges that autistic children may experience. They can provide comprehensive intervention plans that target both ABA-based goals and speech and language goals. 

BCBA and Occupational Therapist (OT)

Dual certification as a BCBA and an OT equips professionals with the skills to address both behavioral and sensory-motor challenges. This combination is particularly useful for autistic people who have sensory processing difficulties and require interventions to improve their motor skills. 

BCBA and Special Education Teacher

Dual certification as a BCBA and a special education teacher enables professionals to effectively support autistic learners within educational settings. This combination allows for a better understanding of the academic and behavioral needs of autistic people. 

BCBA and Clinical Psychologist

This combination provides expertise in both behavioral analysis and psychological assessment. Professionals with this dual certification can conduct comprehensive assessments, design behavior intervention plans, and address the emotional and psychological well-being of autistic people. 

What do you have to study to be dually certified?

To be dually certified, individuals typically need to complete the educational requirements and training for both certifications they seek. The specific requirements vary depending on the certifications pursued, but here is a general overview: 

BCBA certification

To become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), individuals must have a minimum of a master’s degree in behavior analysis, education, or a related field. They need to complete approved coursework in behavior analysis, accumulate supervised fieldwork hours, and pass the BCBA examination administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). 

Additional certification 

The requirements for the additional certification vary depending on the chosen field. For example, to become a speech-language pathologist, individuals need a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, complete clinical practicum hours, and pass a national examination for SLP licensure. Similarly, other professions will have their own specific educational and training requirements. 

Dual certification often involves completing the necessary coursework, practical experience, and examinations for both certifications. This typically requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and dedication to studying and gaining expertise in multiple areas. 

Benefits of dual certification in ABA therapy

Dual certification offers several significant benefits for professionals working with autistic individuals or people with other developmental disabilities. Here are some key advantages: 

Comprehensive assessment and treatment 

Professionals with dual certification possess a broader range of skills and knowledge across multiple disciplines. This allows for a more comprehensive assessment of an individual’s needs and the development of targeted treatment plans. By combining expertise from different fields, practitioners can address a wider range of challenges and provide integrated interventions that consider both behavioral and other relevant domains. 

Holistic approach

Dual-certified professionals can take a holistic approach to intervention. They understand the interconnectedness between different areas of development, such as behavior, communication, sensory processing, or academic skills. This comprehensive perspective enables them to design interventions that address the underlying issues contributing to behavioral challenges and support overall development in a well-rounded manner. 

Enhanced collaboration

Having dual certification facilitates collaboration among professionals from various disciplines. Professionals with dual certification can effectively communicate and collaborate with their colleagues in different specialties, such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, or special education teachers. This collaborative approach promotes a cohesive and coordinated effort, ensuring that interventions are aligned and reinforcing across different domains of development. 

Increased job opportunities

Professionals with dual certification often have an advantage in the job market. Their diverse skill set and ability to provide comprehensive services make them highly sought after by employers in various settings, such as autism centers, schools, clinics, or private practice. Dual certification can expand career opportunities and increase professional marketability, allowing individuals to pursue diverse roles and work with a broader range of clients. 

Improved outcomes for autistic people 

Ultimately, the primary goal of dual certification is to improve outcomes for autistic people. By drawing from multiple disciplines and employing a multidimensional approach, dual-certified professionals can develop more effective and individualized interventions. This comprehensive support can lead to improved behavior, communication, social skills, academic performance, and overall quality of life for autistic individuals. 

Dual certification at Lighthouse Autism Center 

Lighthouse Autism Center has a team of dual-certified clinicians, some of only a handful in the world, who are both Board Certified Behavior Analysts and speech-language pathologists. These clinicians are experts in the fields of ABA and speech therapy for autism, and every learner at Lighthouse has the opportunity to work with these world-class clinicians. 

These therapists specializing in autism are among the many autism resources available at LAC and are also expert practitioners of our innovative Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy.  

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Sydney

Sydney’s Lighthouse Autism Center Journey

Sydney is the Executive Administrative Assistant and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since January of 2022. She graduated from Valparaiso University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in English. She also minored in Spanish and music performance. Her favorite things to do outside of work are to read, cycle, play the flute, cheer on the Chicago White Sox, and spend time with her dog, Luna.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

It has always been very important to me to be a part of an organization that has a strong tie to the community and that strives to provide resources to the underserved. When I came across an administrative position with Lighthouse, I jumped at the opportunity. I had a strong feeling that I could be a good fit for the organization and Lighthouse could be a great fit for me!

What is your favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center?

My favorite part about working at Lighthouse is that every day is different! My position requires me to wear a lot of different hats, and this allows me to learn something new every day. Even though I do not work on the clinical side of the organization, I still get to learn about the clinical operations and familiarize myself with how the organization serves our learners. I love that I get to broaden my skills with different projects and research opportunities. I also appreciate getting to work with the Executive Team as they all push me to become a versatile assistant.

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

I would describe my experience working for Lighthouse as fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding. I’ve experienced great collaboration between departments and can always find someone willing to help me succeed or point me in the right direction.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory so far was getting to shadow a therapist during my first week. It was meaningful to get to see firsthand the services that I would support in my role on the learner support side of the organization, and the learners were so sweet. The bright, playful spaces of our centers are always uplifting to see and experience. I’ve also really enjoyed visiting some of the newly opened centers.

What advice you would like to share for those interested in a career at Lighthouse Autism Center?

If any position with LAC interests you, go for it! So many people on our team are willing to support you and help you succeed in a role at Lighthouse. There are also so many opportunities for growth and advancement. If you’re looking for a rewarding career that will challenge you and allow you to serve your community, Lighthouse is the perfect place for you. 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

How Can Parents of Autistic Children Reduce Their Stress?

Raising autistic children can be challenging, with parents experiencing higher than usual stress levels. This, in turn, impacts mental and physical health, making it crucial to understand and address common stressors in parents of autistic children.

How Can Parents of Autistic Children Reduce Their Stress?

Parenting can be quite a challenging journey, and when it comes to raising autistic children, the stress levels can be even higher. Research has consistently shown that parents of autistic children tend to experience more stress compared to other groups of parents.  

While a little stress can be beneficial and keep us motivated, prolonged and excessive stress can have negative effects on our health. In fact, the relationship between parenting and autism often results in higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress-related health issues. 

Understanding and addressing parental stress is crucial for the well-being of both parents and their autistic children. Let’s try to understand the most common stressors in parents, the effect stress has on both parents and children, as well as ways to reduce stress.  

Common reasons for stress in parents

Parenting an autistic child increases stress levels beyond those of parents of allistic children. The need for constant vigilance, financial burdens associated with therapy costs, sleep deprivation, and managing challenging behaviors can all contribute to increased parental stress levels.  

The impact of parental stress extends beyond individual well-being. It can also affect marital relationships, parenting effectiveness, and even the decision to continue with treatment.  Let’s take a closer look at these different stressors and the effect they have on parents. 

Psychological stress

Taking care of an autistic child can increase the risk of psychological distress like depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues in a caregiver. It’s important for parents to prioritize their own mental well-being and learn healthy coping strategies to manage stress effectively. 

Physical stress

Chronic stress can have physical effects on parents of autistic children, making them more vulnerable to cardiovascular, immune system, and gastrointestinal issues. Research has shown that caregivers in these situations have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and biomarkers like CRP, which are linked to various physical illnesses. Fatigue and sleep difficulties may also be common, especially if the child struggles with sleep as well. 

Social stress

Autism spectrum disorder is often misunderstood by the general public, leading to blame or misunderstanding of a child’s behaviors. This can result in a stigma that isolates parents socially, causing them to withdraw from public gatherings and even strain relationships with friends and family. Marital stress may also be more prevalent in families with an autistic child. 

Financial stress

Research suggests that parents of autistic children face financial challenges, such as lower income or reduced work hours, compared to other parents. Additional expenses related to therapy, medical care, and childcare can add a significant financial burden. Some parents may even risk job instability due to frequent absences needed to care for their child.  


One of the first steps towards reducing your stress is acceptance. Accepting that your child has autism and that it is not a disease to be “cured” or “fixed” can play a massive role in managing your expectations of both yourself and your child. Autism is part of who your child is, and every intervention moving forward should be based on that key understanding. Acceptance takes time, years for some, but is an integral part of the success of your child, and the overall family unit.  

It takes a village

Solid support systems are crucial for parents of autistic children. Don’t hesitate to lean on family members and close friends for help. Give them specific tasks to assist you. You don’t have to educate them about autism spectrum disorder yourself — direct them to resources where they can learn more.  

Additionally, disability organizations, places of worship, schools, and community organizations can be valuable additions to your support system. Meeting other parents who understand what you’re going through can be a great support. They “get” the challenges and joys of raising an autistic child, and you can learn from each other’s experiences. 

Focus on reality and not “what ifs”

It’s natural to wonder what life would be like without autism, but dwelling on “what if” scenarios adds unnecessary stress. Focus on the present and embrace your child’s unique journey. Face uncertainties with a positive mindset.  

Ask yourself what your responsibilities are to your child and yourself in the present moment. By focusing on the reality-based needs of your child and what you can actually control, you can alleviate unnecessary stress. 

Find space for yourself

When you feel overwhelmed by the various sources of stress as a parent of an autistic child, it can be helpful to start with small changes. Focus on getting enough sleep, incorporating regular exercise into your routine, and carving out some time for yourself.  

Even smaller changes — like slowing down your daily routine or drinking more water — can make a difference.  

For some, work can provide a break from caregiving for parents of autistic children, but it shouldn’t be the only reprieve. You need to have time and space outside of work where you can prioritize your emotional and physical well-being, pursue your interests, and nurture other relationships.  

Don’t let the fear of how your child will adjust to a new caregiver hold you back. Allowing your child to interact with other adults can be beneficial for both of you. Schedule respite care by hiring a babysitter, asking for help from family or friends, or exploring options like the Medicaid autism waiver. Use this time to rest, run errands, or do something that helps you relax. 

Finding some time for yourself is essential. It can be as short as 15 or 20 minutes. Whether it’s quiet time while your child plays independently or trading caregiving responsibilities with your partner, prioritize moments of self-care. Taking care of yourself can have a positive impact on both your own well-being and your child’s functioning. 

Emotional regulation is key

As parents, we’re human and experience a range of emotions. Find healthy outlets to regulate your emotions, such as exercise, meditation, journaling, or engaging in activities you enjoy. These practices can help you manage stress and maintain emotional well-being. 

Start small and mark the wins

Recognize and celebrate both major and minor victories for you and your child. Acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can uplift your spirits and reduce stress. Share your wins with others and savor the progress you and your child make. 

Find professional help 

Don’t underestimate the value of professional help in managing your stress levels. If regular therapy or counseling is not feasible, there are still options available. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to ensure your physical health is in check.  

Disability or autism organizations, as well as your local school or hospital, can help connect you with support groups for caregivers of children with autism. These groups not only provide a listening ear but also offer valuable resources and information to reduce parenting stress. 

Let Lighthouse Autism Center support you and your autistic child

Among the many autism resources available at the Lighthouse Autism Center are a host of autism parenting secrets to help our parents raise their autistic children with empathy and effective care. Combined with our innovative Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy, parents are able to live happier and less stressful lives at home with their autistic children. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

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