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My son is 3 and autistic. What should I be doing for him?

Writer: Rachel Cortese, MS, CCC-SLP

Clinical Expert: Rachel Cortese, MS, CCC-SLP

Q My son is three and is autistic. I'm worried what will he become. What is the best I can do for him? He is so cute and acts like any other kid. What did I do wrong?

Many parents, like you, worry about what will become of their children, and when you have a child who has unique and special needs, it’s only natural to wonder what kind of support they may or may not need down the road. While none of us can predict exactly what the future holds, you have already taken the first step by reaching out to us to ensure your child has the support and services he needs now to help him reach his full potential. A comprehensive evaluation by a team of experts can help to clarify your son’s current strengths and determine how he learns best, so that an individualized treatment plan can be devised to help him do more of the things he is already doing and bring his skills to the next level.

The good news is that the brain is plastic — it has the ability to change structurally — and children continue to learn throughout the lifespan. Research shows that intensive, early intervention can essentially “re-wire” the brain, which is what happens as we learn new information. Talking with a professional about the best evidence-based treatments, school placement options, and optimal learning environment for your son is an important first step.

I should also add that there is little conclusive evidence as to the cause of autism; our understanding now is that neither you nor any other parent of an autistic child did anything wrong. But you can do things right for him now, and you’ve obviously started down that path. By being aware of his needs and attentive to his development, you can help him reach his full potential.

This article was last reviewed or updated on January 28, 2023.