People with autism tend to be very sensitive to their environment, making it even more important for loved ones to be aware of how they are coping with daily life. A person’s mood may change drastically if their sensory needs aren’t being met or if something new is introduced into their surroundings, says Georges Chahwan. Autism is a lifelong condition that cannot be “cured” by medication or therapy, though people on the spectrum can often learn new behaviors and skills through these treatments. People living with this disorder should feel safe and able to express themselves as individuals, so it’s absolutely necessary for those around them to understand what they need to feel comfortable and secure.

For instance, your loved one may require a quiet environment or they may have difficulties with loud noises. Spend time getting to know their triggers and find ways to avoid them. A person also might need plenty of time alone, so give them space if they are at home or work only during set hours if they have a job.

There are some things that can’t be avoided though, no matter how much you try to prepare for them ahead of time, adds Georges Chahwan. A change in routine or the introduction of something new often causes stress for people on the spectrum, which is why it’s important for loved ones to remain calm and patient around these types of challenges. If possible, schedule outings well in advance; this gives your friend or family member time to prepare. For example, if you’re going out on a Friday night, let them know on a Wednesday what time to expect you for and for how long so they can mentally prepare.