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Fostering an autistic child

Autism explained in simple terms, within the context of fostering. Do you think you have what it takes to foster an autistic child?

Autism explained

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. It might be noticeable in the differences in an autistic child’s social interactions, communication skills, sensory needs, and restrictive and repetitive behaviours.

As the foster parent of an autistic child or young person, you can use and encourage particular approaches, tools, interventions and habits. These will help you bond with and support your foster child as they learn how to thrive in a neurotypical world as a neurodivergent person with autism.

When you become a foster carer with National Fostering Group, we offer a high degree of support and free training tailored to your needs and those of your foster child.

Common characteristics of autism

The British Medical Association estimates that one in every 100 children have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, some of whom are foster children. Autism has a set of traits, including those listed below. However, each individual person will have a different experience of what it means to be autistic.

  • Attention to detail
  • Methodical approaches
  • Creativity
  • Accepting of difference
  • Integrity
  • Rumination and brooding (perseverative thinking)
  • Executive function (processing information)
  • Motor skills (co-ordination, balance)
  • Verbal or non-verbal communication
  • Sensory processing (bright lights, strong smells)

Carer stories: Fostering a child with special needs

Mum-of-seven Karen is foster parent to an autistic child, who also has dyspraxia and detachment disorder. The foster child is with her on a long-term placement and has been since he was three – he’s now 11.

“They said at first that he wouldn’t communicate so he’s done amazingly well,” Karen said. “He’s so clever and Covid has really suited him as he loves the routine of being at home.

“Right now, he is obsessed by Rubik’s Cubes and can complete one in under 20 seconds. He is a joy to have in my life, he fits in so well.”

Carer stories: Why we choose to foster autistic children

Lil and Gary have been fostering for around 25 years. They have four children of their own, one of whom is autistic. One of their grandchildren is autistic too.

They have 2 autistic young people with them under the Staying Put scheme and an autistic teen foster child. Each requires their needs to be met in particular ways.

Lil and Gary are more than happy to oblige and are proud of how their own children have responded. “Our children have been so accommodating,” Lil said. “Nobody is left out. They understand. They see that we never said no. We’ve had children in here who’ve been disruptive but they’ve never passed judgement. They’ve been supportive and never given up.”

Can you foster an autistic child?

We welcome foster carer applications from people of all backgrounds – our children are diverse, so our foster parents need to be too. You can be single, married, a homeowner or a tenant, gay, disabled… What we really care about is your ability to nurture a foster child.

If you’re interested in fostering an autistic child, you don’t need experience of autism, though it might help. We offer training on topics that help you be the best you can be in your role, and one-to-one support from your local agency team. If you want to check if you’re eligible to apply, try our quick Can I Foster? tool.

Some professions naturally lend themselves to a move into fostering. If you’ve worked in sectors like education, the emergency services, care or healthcare, you’ll be especially suited to becoming a foster carer.

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