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Working With Autistic Children: A Complete Career Guide

According to BMA, it is estimated that around 100,000 people in the UK currently have an autism diagnosis, with one in 100 children diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. With those numbers in mind, it’s vital that people with autism, and in particular children with autism, have access to the support they need on a daily basis. So working with autistic children can be a great career choice for anyone looking for a stable career. On one hand, you get to help children with autism lead a quality life. On the other hand, you get to experience the fascinating changes in the lives of autistic children first hand

Autism is not an illness, but rather a condition which causes people’s brains to work in a different way from others in the world. While there is a set of typical behaviours which autistic people can exhibit, everyone with autism may display different symptoms, meaning they needed different types and levels of support than someone else with autism might need.

If you’re interested in working with autistic children, there are a number of career paths you can follow. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know to work with autistic children and kickstart a rewarding, exciting, and lifelong career for yourself.

Table of Contents

12 Careers in the Autism Field

If you’re looking to pursue a career working with autistic children, then you’re in luck, because there are lots of career options out there for you. We’ve narrowed it down to our top 12 to show you the wide selection of career paths you could follow!

1. SEN Teacher

Special Education Needs (SEN) Teachers are teachers who specialise in providing additional support to young children in the classroom who have special education needs. As well as autism, SEN Teachers will need to have specialist knowledge of a range of other special education needs to ensure they can provide the exact level of support each child needs. 

It is the job of an SEN Teacher to ensure that children with special education needs follow the set curriculum alongside the rest of their class, and help children with autism adapt to the classroom setting if they are finding certain situations difficult or hard to handle. SEN Teachers will also plan lessons, assign homework, and mark classwork for children with special needs. They will also liaise with parents, carers and other staff members to ensure that children with autism feel supported and looked after at all times.

If you’re interested in working as an SEN Teacher, there are a number of different places you could work to fulfil this role. An SEN Teacher could be part of a mixed class and work closely with another teacher, or they could run a special class filled with SEN students. SEN Teachers can also provide one-on-one support or support in small groups to ensure a more dedicated level of support. You could also explore a role as an SEN Teacher in a special needs school.

2. SEN Teaching Assistant

If you’re interested in working in the SEN teaching field, you may consider a role as an SEN Teaching Assistant instead. SEN Teaching Assistants will work closely with teaching staff to ensure that lessons run smoothly, that children are engaging with the learning materials, and all the students have the help and support they need to thrive at school.

Much like SEN Teachers, SEN Teaching Assistants will focus their attention on children with special education needs, including autism. They may work in a mixed classroom, where the children with special needs are their main responsibility. Having this extra support in the classroom will allow the teachers to focus on the class as a whole, while the SEN Teaching Assistant can provide the specialist support which autistic children may need.

SEN Teaching Assistants will work closely with the teaching staff, parents, carers, and other staff members in the school to ensure the needs of the school’s children with special education needs are met and supported at all times.

3. Nursery School Staff

Another education role which will see you working closely with autistic children is nursery school staff. Children are typically diagnosed with autism at about three-years-old at the youngest, and so there will be children at nursery school age who will need additional support while attending nursery school.

SEN nursery school staff are there to ensure that children with autism start to get the support they need as early in the education journey as possible. Having this support in the nursery classroom will prepare them for what their daily education will be like in primary school.

Having this support available to children when they are very young will help them get used to working closely with SEN staff as early as possible, and will help them know what to expect support-wise as they continue through school.

4. Developmental Psychologist

Aside from working with autistic children during their education, there are other job roles which you can pursue. One of these choices is a Development Psychologist. Development Psychologists study human growth and development over the different stages of human life. They will take a deeper look at things such as physical, cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality, and emotional growth. 

As a Developmental Psychologist, you may work one-on-one with autistic children, work closely with their families to establish the type of support needed, or work closely with groups of children with special needs. 

The main role of a Developmental Psychologist is to work closely with children who have missed one or more major developmental milestones, which can be quite common in children with autism. Developmental Psychologists can spot children missing these developmental milestones as quickly as possible to ensure that children with autism get the support straight away. 

Developmental Psychologists will look at all the information available to them and help diagnose autism in young children. They can also create professional treatment plans to ensure autistic children get the support they need both at home and at school.

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5. Art Therapist

Art therapy can be an excellent creative outlet for children with autism and can be an exciting career choice for anyone interested in working with autistic children. If you’re an artistic person yourself, this may be an ideal career choice for you. 

Art can be an ideal way for children, and especially children with autism to express themselves and communicate their feelings. Children with autism are more likely to be visual thinkers, and art is a great way to allow visual expression, no matter what artistic medium they favour. 

As an Art Therapist, it is your job to help autistic children use art to process the world around them in a way which has no boundaries and is very creative. Art therapy can also be great for autistic children as it doesn’t rely on speech to allow them to communicate.

You can work with children one-on-one as an Art Therapist, or you can run group sessions which encourage autistic children to work together and create art collaboratively.

6. Nanny

Becoming a Nanny is the perfect way to follow a career path that will see you working with autistic children. As a Nanny, it’s vital that you have all the professional skills and knowledge required to work with children who have special education needs, including autism. As you’ll be working with the children you care for on a close basis, you need to be aware of the type of help they need to feel comfortable and supported.

While you are likely to change the families you work with on a regular basis, it’s important that you are prepared provided the specialist care needed. If you do work with a family which has an autistic child, you will need to ensure that you stick to any routines or care plans which have already been laid out in order to care for the child in the best way possible.

7. Applied Behaviour Analyst

As an Applied Behaviour Analyst, you work within a specialist field of psychology which looks at autistic children. You will work closely with children who are on the autistic spectrum and look at how a child’s behaviour correlates with their environment. You will look at the causes and consequences of certain behaviours, and then decide on the best intervention methods to help change these behaviours.

Applied Behaviour Analysts will also work with the family of autistic children to help support behavioural changes in the children, and work towards them becoming more independent as they grow and get older. 

Working as an Applied Behaviour Analyst can be an intensive job, as you may have to work with children for a large amount of time per week to ensure the treatment is successful.

8. School Counsellor

As a School Counsellor, you will work closely with students from all over the school to ensure they get the help and guidance they need. You will be someone who will make a positive impact on the lives of students every day, ensuring you help students be confident and motivated. It’s your job to ensure they succeed in education and have a bright future waiting for them. 

This will mean working with students who have autism, and knowing what type of support to offer them to ensure they feel healthy and happy at their school. You need to be able to provide high-quality support to any problems which students bring your way, even if the students you work with have additional educational needs. 

School Counsellors will work closely with pupils and potentially other SEN staff members to ensure that there’s a proper plan put in place to help children with autism achieve their goals.

9. Rehabilitation Therapist

Working as a Rehabilitation Therapist is a career which branches off from applied behaviour analysis (ABA). As a Rehabilitation Therapist, it will be your responsibility to study the challenges and issues children with autism face on a daily basis, and look at how you can help them overcome these challenges. This will enable them to live productive lives and will help them deal with any difficulties which autism presents them with.

As a Rehabilitation Therapist, you will work with autistic children and their families to decide on the best ABA therapy techniques for each child and each situation. On each basis, you will develop and implement programs which children with autism can use to help them deal with the problems associated with autism which they may face.

These programs will help autistic children develop their speech and social skills, as well as other skills such as physical skills, and reward them for desirable behaviour. To succeed as a Rehabilitation Therapist, you will need to have excellent communication skills, and well as high levels of empathy and patience. 

10. Occupational Therapist

Working as an Occupational Therapist means that your main focus is to help your patients overcome any difficulties which they face as a result of their disabilities or special needs. Your aim will be to equip them with everything they need to carry out day-to-day tasks and live their lives as normally as possible. 

Occupational Therapists will work with autistic children to help aid things such as their handwriting, fine motor skills, and daily living skills. However, your main role as an Occupational Therapist working with autistic children is to look at how to prevent sensory overload in a range of situations to ensure autistic children can continue to learn, stay calm, and remain focussed on their schoolwork.

This will mean looking at the things which could be over stimulating or under stimulating autistic children at school and in the classroom and coming up with a treatment plan which will help prevent them overloading.

11. Social Worker

Social Workers are specially trained to provide support to children and families who need additional support or assistance. This could include a range of issues, but Social Workers want to ensure that families live regular lives by looking at any problems they may face and offering assistance where possible.

As a social worker working with a family with autistic children, it will be your job to ensure that both the children and the family are receiving the level of help and support they need. This could mean arranging additional support for the children at school, or ensuring that their parents or carers are getting the help they need at home.

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12. Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-Language Pathologists are trained to provide support and care for people who have difficulties doing things such as speaking, communicating, eating, drinking, and swallowing. When it comes to working with autistic children, a Speech-Language Pathologist can be a key part in ensuring autism is detected and diagnosed as early as possible.

Speech-Language Pathologists will then work closely with patients to come up with a personalised plan to help improve their communication issues and ensure they can live as normal a life as possible. 

Working as a Speech-Language Pathologist may also see you working with autistic children who are non-verbal, and finding other ways to help them communicate with those around them. You will also work closely with the families of autistic children, as well as the staff at their school, to ensure they are well-supported at all times.

Tips for Working with Autistic Children

Working with children can be challenging at the best of times, and it’s important to know the best ways of working with autistic children to ensure a pleasant experience for both you and the children. Here are some of the best expert tips for creating a great working relationship with the autistic children you work with!

1. Try Not to Overload Them

As we mentioned above, sensory overload can have a negative effect on autistic children, stressing them out and sometimes causing them to shut down completely. Whatever role you end up working with autistic children in, it’s important to make sure you don’t overload them. 

Ensure that you work on one task or one problem at a time, and make sure you are patient with the children you work with at all times. 

2. Create a Routine

Many autistic children thrive on a solid routine, and so, if you’re working with them on a regular basis, it’s important that you slot into their current routine, or create your own routine with them in order to make them feel supported and secure. Many autistic children will have a planner which they stick to every day, including time mapped out for meals, naps, and other activities. It’s vital that you stick to this routine in order to create a positive environment for the children you work with.

3. Repeat Yourself

The best way to ensure that the information you are passing on to an autistic child is going to be retained is to repeat yourself. If you’re looking to teach them something new or to try and adjust their behaviour, repetition is your friend. 

4. Use Visual Aids

Most children with autism are visual thinkers and learners, meaning that they respond better to things like pictures and visual aids when learning. Use a whiteboard to draw pictures to accompany your point, write down things you are trying to teach them, such as new words, or make use of videos and slideshows. All these methods can help them learn what you are trying to teach them much better.

5. Tailor Your Approach

While you may assume that all autistic children will learn in the same way, or exhibited the same symptoms, it’s simply not true. Everyone can display a different combination of autism symptoms, meaning every child with autism which you work with may react differently to a range of situations. 

This is why it’s vital that you tailor your approach to each child you work with and ensure that you are offering the level of one-on-one support each child needs in order to benefit from the time you spend with them.

6. Use What They Love to Help You

Autistic children often have fixations or special topics which they are extremely interested in, and a good way to build a connection with them, ensure they are paying attention, and make sure they are having fun with you is to use their passions and interests when you spend time with them. Whether you work with autistic children in the classroom or participate in a therapy session with them, showing an interest in their passion can be a great way to get them to engage with you.

This will mean taking a different approach with every child you work with to ensure you find an interest you can bond over, and one that makes sense to use in your sessions together, but it will be worth it to ensure they trust you and have fun at the same time!

7. Use Technology

Following on from the point above, using technology to support the visual learning style of autistic children can provide much better results than trying to use verbal or written instructions. Make use of specialist software programmes to help autistic children learn, and encourage them to type on a keyboard if they are not keen on verbal or written communication methods.

8. Use Clear Language

When you’re working with autistic children, it’s vital to use clear language at all times to ensure they can follow your instructions and always know what is expected of them. Avoid using things like analogies or confusing language when giving instructions, and instead, always use clear language. 

It’s also important to ensure that you use the name of the child you are talking to at the start of your sentences, and frequently throughout the conversation, so they know you are speaking directly to them.

Conclusion

We hope if you’re researching a career working with autistic children then this post has been helpful in explaining the range of careers you can follow once you gain the skills and experience required to work with autistic children. No matter where your skill set or passion lies, there are so many different careers you pursue which will allow you to follow your dream of working with autistic children.

If you’re committed to taking your interest in working with autistic children one step further, you may be interested in browsing our range of autism courses right now to kickstart your career and ensure future success! Through these courses, you can learn the specialist skills needed to work closely with autistic children, understand learning difficulties related to autism, and learn about the best ways to engage in autism awareness!

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September 30, 2021

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