Building Self-Esteem in ASD Children

"My son is often very critical of himself. He will make statements like, 'I'm dumb' or 'I can't do anything right.' How can I help him feel better about himself so that he stops putting himself down all the time?"

Many children with ASD level 1, or High-Functioning Autism, struggle to accomplish tasks of daily life that are relatively easy for other children. While they may not show it in the same ways as other children, ASD kids struggle with self-esteem issues as much or more than kids without the disorder.

Kids on the spectrum often don’t respond to things like hugs, but they can build self-esteem in other ways. One way to build self-esteem is to use a sticker system. Use a board that lists your child’s tasks (e.g., brushing teeth, dressing, eating meals, etc.), and help your child put stickers on the board whenever he or she is successful in completing a task.

Another way to build self-esteem is to use a reward system that involves being able to do a preferred activity when the child is successful at something (e.g., reading a preferred book, doing a preferred activity, etc.). This works best when the child can link a successful task to the reward system.

Even though children with autism don’t often respond to the same kinds of praise as other children, giving praise is a natural thing for parents to do. Praise, when given as part of the completion of a task, may still increase self-esteem if it comes from a familiar person who they have come to trust. It becomes not the praise itself, but the person from whom it comes that is the reward.

Children on the spectrum don’t look like they need "self-esteem building" at times, but in fact, they do! Parents need to find ways to teach their child that he or she is successful at what they do.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD


•    Anonymous said... a lot of times my boy will say "all parents say nice- stuff about their kids" It's hard to cut thru the lack of acceptance of his peers...
•    Anonymous said... Camp Kodiak!! I worked there for ten years and they do an awesome job of giving the kids the chance to be successful and that goes a looooong way to building up their resilience for life (aka the school year!!)
•    Anonymous said... everytime I try to correct her.......
•    Anonymous said... Give him constant feedback on how well he did a task, or when he achieves something. My aspie sometimes says "you know I'm stupid" and I have to remind him how bright he is. Lots of hugs help too!
•    Anonymous said... I tell my 8 year old daughter "A professional was once a beginner. Don't give up!"
•    Anonymous said... If our son get frustrated - he will hit his head and say "my stupid brain"
•    Anonymous said... It is SO heartbreaking to hear my son say things like this. We've been to CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and it's helped some. What I've learned is that it's really important to point out the good things as they happen. "Wow! I really like how you..." or "You're really good at..."
•    Anonymous said... I've heard this from my son as well. Usually, it's in response to something that was said to him that hurts his feelings (even though that was not the intent by the person saying it). When I've been the cause (or another member of the family), I make sure to take the time to explain to him the real meaning of what was said so he understands it wasn't to harm him. Of course that doesn't work in school - he seems to always take things in a way that wasn't meant so it's hard. Hang in there!
•    Anonymous said... my child does that too especially when she was in school, not so much now as she doesent have to compare herself to anyone
•    Anonymous said... My eldest did that and we made a rewards board in his room, any certificates, merit awards ribbons that he got at school at sports, even if it is just to say he played as part of a team, went up on it and that way he could visually see that he was an achiever.
•    Anonymous said... Ours always says things like "Awww man why do I always forget!"
•    Anonymous said... Thank you thank you so much for always posting timely, relevant articles - they mean so much to us, trying to help our children!
•    Anonymous said... we do a wow book each day what good thing happened to me today. What did I do well. No negatives. Lots of positive praise.

Post your comment below…


Anonymous said...

I point out the things he can do that I can't. We all have our strengths and weakness'. But a weakness can be worked on!

Anonymous said...

My son struggles with this as well. I have to really make sure to point out what he is good at and make a big deal about it. It is so hard to hear them say things like that about themself. We are also getting him more involved in making decisions when it comes to certain things so that he feels more empowerment and also giving him more 'jobs' around the house and at our place of business.

Anonymous said...

That's a great tip. I will do that with my daughter.

Anonymous said...

My 6 year old does this same thing and we found through play therapy that he was angry and didn't know how to express it. Our play therapist has been great for my sons emotion recognition and self confidence

Anonymous said...

Great question, thanks for the post. It is always amazing to me what same things our kids have in common.

Internomad said...

I make it more indirect, I include praise about the child when I know that they are listening, I also ask the child to help me in the areas that he is good in, I don't lay the praise on too thick but I make sure I have his eye contact and squeeze his shoulder at the same time, only when he really deserves it so that he knows it not shallow praise, these guys see straight through that

Raising Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parents' Grief and Guilt

Some parents grieve for the loss of the youngster they   imagined  they had. Moms and dads have their own particular way of dealing with the...