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How to Promote Self-Confidence in Your Child on the Autism Spectrum

Early on, the youngster with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger’s (AS) begins to notice that his peers can do certain tasks easily that are very difficult for him. As a result, he may begin to feel bad about himself. He may receive frequent criticism, or at best, luck warm praise. For example:
  • “You are making progress” (with what exactly?).
  • “You are doing fine” (how fine?).
  • “You are doing better” (better than what?).

Criticism damages self-confidence, and general (i.e., non-specific) praise is often too abstract to be meaningful to concrete thinkers.

By making a regular habit of commenting on the positives, and by offering specific comments on what their HFA youngster is doing well, moms and dads will promote desired behaviors and boost his or her self-confidence. Specific praise includes phrases such as: 
  • “You are listening carefully. I’m proud of you.”
  • “You are sitting properly and looking at me.”
  • “You cleaned the table after dinner.”
  • “You finished the assignment.”
  • “You picked up the bag the lady dropped. Thank you.”
  • “You remembered to bring home the work you have do.”

With specific praise, the “special needs” youngster can be very clear on what behaviors are expected and liked.

==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Visual, specific “proof of progress” helps the youngster with HFA to notice - and feel confident - about her accomplishments and progress. Charts, check lists with lots of checks, gold stars, home-made certificates, and stickers can be used when the child works hard on tasks:
  • (a) at home (e.g., making her bed, putting the toilet paper into the holder when the last piece is gone, remembering to take out the garbage, setting the table correctly, helping her mom with the shopping, etc.),
  • (b) at school (e.g., keeping her desktop organized, standing quietly in line for lunch, waiting for her turn to talk, etc.).

Moms and dads - and educators - boost the HFA youngster’s self-confidence by seeking-out what he can do well and supporting these strengths to the fullest extent. Whether it is telling stories, selling things, science, photography, nature, inventing, computer work, or art, the “special needs” youngster needs ongoing and frequent support to become the best in his “areas of strength.” This extra support will help the child to value the educational process, and it will help him feel better about himself.

Teaching the HFA child that many people have overcome difficulties to become successful is another valuable way to boost confidence. For example, adventures where the characters got lost or had to fight sharks or other beasts, read or play videos of biographies in which kids or grown-ups have had to struggle to achieve their goals, stories of achieving despite illness or disability, stories of fighting prejudice or unfairness, etc. Kids on the autism spectrum enjoy and benefit from discussing these kinds of challenges.

In addition, when moms and dads can introduce their youngster to highly effective members of society who struggle with various disorders, particularly an autism spectrum disorder, the child can hold her head higher. All members of society who are functioning well with HFA (e.g., athletes, business executives, celebrities, firemen, policemen, etc.) can serve as role models and inspiration for the “special needs” youngster.

When parents and teachers learn to cherish and model diversity, the HFA youngster learns that there are many different ways to think, learn, work, raise kids, and so on. He feels better about himself when he understands that doing things differently, learning differently, and being different is perfectly acceptable – and that differences can enrich our lives. True self-confidence manifests itself when the child is able to do what he wants to do – even if he doesn’t do it the way everybody else does.

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

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

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