Caring for Loved Ones with Autism Starts with Caring for Yourself

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Being a caregiver often means balancing the needs of your loved one and those of yourself. Cheryle, a Humana member, is the sole caregiver for her grandson who lives with autism. Because Cheryl lives with diabetes, she carefully manages her disease so that she can be available for her grandson.

“I cleaned up my cabinets and refrigerator of stuff that my grandson doesn't like and I shouldn’t eat,” said Cheryle. “I'm also teaching him nutrition and trying to teach him, ‘This is for you. But you see, this is for me, and I don't want you ever to have diabetes, so you take care of yourself.’”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than girls.1 And a study published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders (2022) suggests that ASD is associated with an increased risk of being underweight.2

“My 15-year-old grandson is technically underweight,” said Cheryle. “I've actually had to take him to a nutritionist who talks directly to him but I'm there to listen. If I make mashed potatoes, he gets an extra big hunk of butter. Any place I can add calories for him.”

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Each person living with autism is affected in different ways and some people may not be diagnosed until adulthood.

To be healthy for her grandson, Cheryle has learned how to better manage diabetes by attending Humana Neighborhood Center classes and by following the advice of her physician. She takes care of herself by watching what she eats, carefully managing her weight and getting regular exercise.

“If anything happens to me, my grandson, who is autistic and has ADHD, needs to be cared for,” said Cheryle.


Are you providing care for a loved one living with autism? Visit for the support you need to help your loved ones, including a caregiver’s toolkit, resources and information on accessing protected health information (PHI). 

Are you like Cheryle and interested in taking better care of yourself, so you can take care of a loved one? Visit a Humana Neighborhood Center in-person or online to participate in educational events, programs and activities designed to help with physical and mental health. Many classes offered at local Neighborhood Centers can be used by anyone, including those who are not Humana members, at no cost.

Your results may vary. It may not be typical to improve health conditions by taking the actions Cheryle has.

1.     Maenner MJ, Warren Z, Williams AR, et al. Prevalence and Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years—Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2020. MMWR Surveill Summ 2023;72(No. SS-2):1-14. DOI:

2.     Kahathuduwa CN, Dhanasekara CS, et al. Autism spectrum disorder is associated with an increased risk of development of underweight in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 2022;94:101969. DOI: