HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Building Self-Esteem in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

"How can I help my very depressed 13 y.o. lad to develop some self-esteem? He feels like nobody NOBODY likes him right now :(  Is this common for children on the autism spectrum? Would it have anything to do with puberty?"

Youngsters with ASD can oftentimes FEEL that they are different. This can affect his/her self-esteem. As a parent, this can break your heart. 

Here are some ideas to help your youngster to build up his self-esteem again:

Kids with ASD have a much harder time with their self-esteem. They often perceive the constant correction of their behaviors and their social interactions as criticism. The frequent visits to doctors, or speech therapists, or OTs, the testing and the stream of interventions that we try with them can easily leave them feeling like they're under the microscope, a specimen that warrants investigation, a person who needs fixing.

Expressive and comprehensive communication has a direct impact on a youngster's self-esteem. These are areas that do not come easily to kids or adults with ASD. Understanding subtle jokes and participating in human interplay, actions natural to their neuro-typical peers, further increase their feelings of 'not fitting in' and erode their self-esteem. Combine all this with the expectations of siblings and the all-too-frequent bullying interactions from many peers and it's easy to understand how devastated a youngster with ASD can feel.

What can we do? It's critical for us, as family members, educators, and professionals to learn strategies and techniques! In our not-too-distant past, institutional placement was the standard intervention for people with ASD. While that is not the case today, we still encounter lack of understanding and appreciation for the unique qualities of the person with ASD. Everyone, especially these visual learners, need a constant reminder of how special they truly are. We must find ways to give them their own Teddy Bear (or dinosaur!) so they will feel "L.C.B." on their own.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
 
But how do we really build their self-esteem? It starts with us examining our own ideas of how we view kids with ASD. We must believe in their value ourselves before we can ever change their minds. These kids know when we're faking our compliments or arbitrarily handing out encouragement because the therapy book says we should give 5 positive comments to each correction. It involves empathy, walking in their shoes, rather than sympathy; no one wants to be felt sorry for. Each youngster is a gift, with his or her own special qualities. We just need to look for these special gifts, tune into the youngster with our hearts, and bring their essence out.

Knowledge is power and nowhere is it more powerful than in helping people better understand what it's like to have ASD. Explain the disorder to everyone involved with the youngster. This will increase their empathy and provide opportunities for genuine praise and encouragement. Explain ASD to the youngster, too, when he is able to understand his disability. Who are we really kidding, other than ourselves, when we pretend a youngster does not have the "label" or we try to camouflage it? Who are we hurting? It's the youngster with ASD who is hurt in the long run.

Go to conferences, read books, research and share information that takes into consideration the many sensory, social, behavioral and communication challenges faced by the youngster at his/her functioning level. Armed with this understanding of how the disability affects the youngster, you and others can better find ways to help him or her fit in.

Remember to teach extended family, educators, other parents and professionals all you can to help integration and provide a deeper understanding when trying to teach particular skills. Be intuitive when advocating for kids and persistent in your approach, though not abrasive. Having a positive mental attitude, especially when advocating, helps others want to cooperate with us. After all, who wants to deal with anyone cranky?

Bridge the interactions between peers and the youngster with ASD. Visually and verbally interpret what you think they both are thinking and/or feeling based on your own experiences when you were their age, and your understanding of ASD.

By teaching others about ASD, more people will become aware of this invisible disability. When people understand empathetically, they will more naturally accept the youngster with ASD, as he is. This is often effective in reducing or eliminating bullying from peers, too.

Learn to correct behaviors by sandwiching the correction in the middle of positive feedback. For example, "Sammy, you are doing a great job cleaning your room. If you pick up the clothes over there it would look even neater. Boy, you sure are a good
listener."

Kids with ASD often times have an incredible sense of humor. I have to stop myself from laughing so my own son doesn't feel like I'm laughing "at" him, causing him to feel inadequate. Sometimes I'll even say "I'm not laughing at you, Jonny, I'm laughing with you."

Stress the positives! Look for the good in every youngster, even if you don't see it at first. Pretending to be Pollyanna can only help, but make sure you're genuine in what you say. Stress the good effort your youngster is making, if he hasn't yet achieved a goal. Show your confidence in his abilities by telling him that you believe he can succeed. Saying things like this that may not be 100% true initially will contribute to your youngster's trust and belief in himself, raising his self-esteem and encouraging self-motivation to continue trying.

Model a mental attitude of "things are great". Express yourself in the positive, rather than the negative. Kids with ASD are masters at copying what others say, so make sure they're hearing things that are good for them to copy! When we say, "You are great!" to a youngster often enough, he, too, will believe it and feel valued for who he truly is.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
 
Encourage kids to share their thoughts and feelings; this is so important and often sheds new light on existing situations. My son, Albert was temporarily removed from the bus after cutting the seat. At first we thought he was acting out, so we had him write an apology to his bus driver. When we read his letter, we discovered that he was being bullied by another student on the bus and that it had been going on for quite some time. We intervened appropriately. The other youngster was reprimanded and Jonny was taught appropriate methods of expressing his anger in the future.

Like most people, kids with ASD feel better about themselves when they're balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Since they are often very picky eaters and gravitate towards junk food, it's important to try supplementing their diet. Also, provide regular physical activity, when possible, to relieve stress and clear their mind.

Set the stage for success by acknowledging their achievements - however small - and reminding them of their past accomplishments. Keep their life manageable and doable, refraining from overwhelming them with so many activities that they become too challenged physically and mentally to succeed at anything. Provide choices to them frequently so they understand they have a say in their own lives and even let them be in charge sometimes. These are all great ways to build self-esteem!

Don't overlook giving them opportunities to connect with their spiritual side through religious avenues or by communing with nature. This can help them feel purposeful, that their lives have meaning and connected with their source.

A strategy that helped raise Albert's self-esteem, especially in overcoming his victim thoughts and feelings, was spiritual affirmations. Using affirmations took some time, but we found that it brought calm and peace to Albert and our family.

Dr. Jerry Jampolsky, author of Love is Letting Go Of Fear and founder of the Center for Attitudinal Healing, offers many principles I find helpful in teaching us to love ourselves, thereby enhancing self-esteem, both in ourselves and then with others. Some of his principles include:
  • Become love finders rather than fault finders
  • Health is inner peace
  • Learn to love others and ourselves by forgiving rather than judging
  • Live in the now
  • The essence of our being is love
  • We can choose to be peaceful inside regardless of what's going on outside
  • We're all students and teachers to each other

Part of Jerry's message is that by focusing on life as a whole, rather than in fragments, we can see what is truly important. His concepts, when embraced, positively affect how a youngster with ASD thinks and feels about him or herself. Anger, resentment, judgment and similar feelings are all forms of fear. Since love and fear cannot co-exist, letting go of fear allows love to be the dominant feeling.

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism
 
Look for the Miracles Daily, there are miracles and good things happening all around us. Learn intimately the challenges that kids with ASD face in their everyday lives. Be on their team by tuning into who they truly are - unique expressions of divine light. Empower them to be themselves, perfectly okay with who and how they are.

Do this by loving them for who they are now, today, not who you think they should become, after ABA, or speech therapy or learning 'appropriate' social skills. Consider that kids and adults with ASD are wonderful beings here to teach us empathy, compassion, understanding and most importantly, how to love. Most importantly, do whatever it takes to include them in life rather than merely integrate their presence.

In genuine star sapphires there are tiny imperfections and inclusions that reflect light perfectly to form a star in the stone. Each youngster with ASD is like this precious gem, unique in every way. Without the tiny inclusions, there would be no star. It is our job as parents, educators and professionals to "bring out the stars" in all of our special kids by shining the light on their natural beauty. In so doing, we see their different abilities rather than their disabilities. And, then they will see them, too.

==> Here's more information on how to build your child's self-esteem and to capitalize on his/her strengths...
 

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


 

COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said… And that's why we've stopped the social skills groups. Can you imagine being made to work on your worst skill and being constantly scrutinized for it on every turn? Now we do playdates with kids who have similar interests as my son, and he's doing so much better!!!
•    Anonymous said… As an ASPIE aka Aspergers person, my self esteem is put on LOW by those who think everybody should be flawless.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter came to me at a very young age (way before I suspected AS) and told me "I can't do anything right"... young enough that I wouldn't have thought a child would normally be analyzing such things. It made me so sad. I think she actually did pretty good homeschooling, then I put her in public school which is what brought her AS to my attention. It's been a struggle every since and she is not open to counseling or help.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter, who also has severe anxiety, attends a therapeutic high school, which has been great. She has daily in-school counseling and an outside psychiatrist (who she really doesn't have a relationship with). However, she refuses to see an outside counselor (the last one made her cry every time). We tried s social skills group and that didn't work either. Suggestions?
•    Anonymous said… Our social group doesn't focus like that, it is a "community based group", meaning all of the meetings take place in businesses around town: Starbucks, ice skating, a restaurant etc. There are themes the facilitator has in mind to work on, but if another challenge comes into play they work on that. See if you can't get into or create one of those types of groups with the therapy team in your area.
•    Anonymous said… We've been treading very carefully with therapies since our then 7 now 10 ds said he was dumb, stupid, not good at anything and thought he should die....such a fine line between providing good therapeutic support where needed and not making him feel like he's broken and needs fixing.

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