Showing posts sorted by relevance for query self esteem. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query self esteem. Sort by date Show all posts

13.4.11

Building High Self-Esteem in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Healthy self-esteem is a youngster's armor against the challenges of the world. Children who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These children are realistic and generally optimistic.

In contrast, children with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. If given to self-critical thoughts such as "I'm no good" or "I can't do anything right," they may become passive, withdrawn, or depressed. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response is "I can't."

Kids with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have a much harder time with their self-esteem. Here are just a few reasons why:
  1. 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 grow-ups with the disorder.
  2. The expectations of siblings and the all-too-frequent bullying interactions from many peers can leave a child on the autism spectrum feeling devastated.
  3. The 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.
  4. They often perceive the constant correction of their behaviors and their social interactions as criticism
  5. 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.

Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs or feelings we have about ourselves, our "self-perceptions." How we define ourselves influences our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors and affects our emotional adjustment. Self-esteem development starts very early. For example, a young child who reaches a milestone experiences a sense of accomplishment that bolsters self-esteem. Learning to roll over after dozens of unsuccessful attempts teaches a baby a "can-do" attitude.

The concept of success following persistence starts early. As children try, fail, try again, fail again, and then finally succeed, they develop ideas about their own capabilities. At the same time, they're creating a self-concept based on interactions with other people. This is why parental involvement is tantamount to helping children form accurate, healthy self-perceptions.

Self-esteem also can be defined as feelings of capability combined with feelings of being loved. A youngster who is happy with an achievement, but does not feel loved, may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a youngster who feels loved, but is hesitant about his or her own abilities, can also end up with low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when the right balance is reached.

Self-esteem fluctuates as children grow. It's frequently changed and fine-tuned, because it is affected by a youngster's experiences and new perceptions. So it helps to be aware of the signs of both healthy and unhealthy self-esteem.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem—

Children with low self-esteem may not want to try new things, and may frequently speak negatively about themselves: "I'm stupid," "I'll never learn how to do this," or "What's the point? Nobody cares about me anyway." They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. They tend to be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves. Children with low self-esteem see temporary setbacks as permanent, intolerable conditions, and a sense of pessimism predominates.

Signs of Healthy Self-Esteem—

Children with healthy self-esteem tend to enjoy interacting with others. They're comfortable in social settings and enjoy group activities as well as independent pursuits. When challenges arise, they can work toward finding solutions and voice discontent without belittling themselves or others. For example, rather than saying, "I'm an idiot," a youngster with healthy self-esteem says, "I don't understand this." They know their strengths and weaknesses, and accept them. A sense of optimism prevails.

How Moms and Dads Can Help—

Here's how you can play an important role in promoting healthy self-esteem in your Asperger's or HFA youngster:

1. As parents, we must believe in our children’s value ourselves before we can ever change their minds. These children 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.

2. Be a positive role model. If you're excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your youngster may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your youngster will have a great role model.

3. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your youngster's self-esteem. Give hugs and tell children you're proud of them. Pop a note in your youngster's lunchbox that reads, "I think you're terrific!" Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Children can tell whether something comes from the heart.

4. Believing in your youngster 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.

5. Bridge the interactions between peers and the youngster with Asperger's or HFA. 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 autism spectrum disorders.

6. Children on the autism spectrum are masters at copying what others say, so make sure they're hearing things that are good for them to copy!

7. Consider that kids on the spectrum are wonderful beings here to teach us empathy, compassion, understanding and most importantly, how to love.

8. Create a safe, loving home environment. Children who don't feel safe or are abused at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A youngster who is exposed to moms and dads who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn.

9. Do whatever it takes to include them in life rather than merely integrate their presence.

10. 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.

11. Encourage kids to share their thoughts and feelings; this is so important and often sheds new light on existing situations.

12. Explain autism to the youngster when he is able to understand his condition. Who are we really kidding, other than ourselves, when we pretend a youngster does not have the "autism" label, or we try to camouflage it? Who are we hurting? It's the youngster on the spectrum who is hurt in the long run.

13. Give positive, accurate feedback. Statements like, "You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn't yell at him or hit him" acknowledges a youngster's feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the youngster to make the right choice again next time.

14. 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 her fit in.

15. Having a positive mental attitude, especially when advocating, helps others want to cooperate with us. After all, who wants to deal with anyone who is bitchy?

16. Help children become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older youngster helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both children.

17. Identify and redirect your youngster's inaccurate beliefs. It's important for moms and dads to identify children' irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they're about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping children set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to children.

18. Keep their life manageable, refraining from overwhelming them with so many activities that they become too challenged physically and mentally to succeed at anything.

19. Like most people, children with Asperger's or HFA feel better about themselves when they're balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

20. Model a mental attitude of "things are great". Express yourself in the positive, rather than the negative.

21. Provide choices to them frequently so they understand they have a say in their own lives and even let them be in charge sometimes.

22. 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.

23. Set the stage for success by acknowledging their achievements - however small - and reminding them of their past accomplishments.

24. Show your confidence in his abilities by telling him that you believe he can succeed.

25. 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.

26. Stress the good effort your youngster is making, if he hasn't yet achieved a goal.

27. 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.

28. Watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect children' self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly.

29. Watch what you say. Children are very sensitive to their moms and dads' words. Remember to praise your youngster not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your youngster doesn't make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, "Well, next time you'll work harder and make it." Instead, try "Well, you didn't make the team, but I'm really proud of the effort you put into it." Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.

30. When we say, "You are great!" to a youngster often enough, he, too, will believe it and feel valued for who he truly is.


More resources for parents:

11.3.11

Helping Your Aspergers Child Develop High Self-Esteem

Kids with Aspergers (high functioning autism) 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 child who needs fixing.

Communication problems also have a direct impact on an Aspie's self-esteem. Understanding subtle jokes and participating in human interplay (actions natural to his non-Aspergers friends) further increase feelings of “not fitting in” and erode 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 an Aspergers kid can feel.

By definition, self-esteem is the way in which a child perceives herself – her own thoughts and feelings about herself and her ability to achieve in ways that are important to her. This self-esteem is shaped not only by a kid's own perceptions and expectations, but also by the perceptions and expectations of significant people in her life – how she is thought of and treated by parents, teachers and peers. The closer her perceived self (i.e., how she sees herself) comes to her ideal self (i.e., how she would like to be), the higher her self-esteem.

Here is how we can help our Aspergers children to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem:

1. Accepting mistakes and failure— Your youngster needs to feel comfortable, not defeated, when she makes mistakes or fails. Explain that these hurdles or setbacks are a normal part of living and learning, and that she can learn or benefit from them. Let your supportive, constructive feedback and your recognition of her effort overpower any sense of failure, guilt, or shame she might be feeling, giving her renewed motivation and hope. Again, make your feedback specific ("If you throw the ball like this, it might help") and not negative and personal ("You are so clumsy," "You'll never make it").

2. Belonging— Your child needs to feel accepted and loved by others, beginning with the family and then extending to groups such as friends, schoolmates, sports teams, a church or temple and even a neighborhood or community. Without this acceptance or group identity, she may feel rejected, lonely, and adrift without a "home," "family" or "group."

3. Contribution— Your youngster will develop a sense of importance and commitment if you give her opportunities to participate and contribute in a meaningful way to an activity. Let her know that she really counts.

4. Encouragement, support and reward— Not only does your youngster need to achieve, but she also needs positive feedback and recognition - a real message that she is doing well, pleasing others and "making it." Encourage and praise her, not only for achieving a set goal but also for her efforts, and for even small increments of change and improvement. ("I like the way you waited for your turn," "Good try; you're working harder," "Good girl!") Give her feedback as soon as possible to reinforce her self-esteem and to help her connect your comments to the activity involved.

5. Family self-esteem— Your youngster's self-esteem initially develops within the family and thus is influenced greatly by the feelings and perceptions that a family has of itself. Some of the preceding comments apply to the family in building its self-esteem. Also, bear in mind that family pride is essential to self-esteem and can be nourished and maintained in many ways, including participation or involvement in community activities, tracing a family's heritage and ancestors, or caring for extended family members. Families fare better when members focus on each other's strengths, avoid excessive criticism and stick up for one another outside the family setting. Family members believe in and trust each other, respect their individual differences and show their affection for each other. They make time for being together, whether to share holidays, special events or just to have fun.

6. Making real choices and decisions— Your youngster will feel empowered and in control of events when she is able to make or influence decisions that she considers important. These choices and decisions need to be appropriate for her age and abilities, and for the family's values.

7. Personal competence and pride— Your youngster should feel confident in her ability to meet the challenges in her life. This sense of personal power evolves from having successful life experiences in solving problems independently, being creative and getting results for her efforts. Setting appropriate expectations, not too low and not too high, is critical to developing competence and confidence. If you are overprotecting her, and if she is too dependent on you, or if expectations are so high she never succeeds, she may feel powerless and incapable of controlling the circumstances in her life.

8. Purpose— Your youngster should have goals that give her purpose and direction and an avenue for channeling her energy toward achievement and self-expression. If she lacks a sense of purpose, she may feel bored, aimless, and even resentful at being pushed in certain directions by you or others.

9. Responsibility— Give your youngster a chance to show what she is capable of doing. Allow her to take on tasks without being checked on all the time. This shows trust on your part, a sort of "letting go" with a sense of faith.

10. Security— Your youngster must feel secure about herself and her future. ("What will become of me?")

11. Self-discipline and self-control— As your youngster is striving to achieve and gain more independence, she needs and wants to feel that she can make it on her own. Once you give her expectations, guidelines, and opportunities in which to test herself, she can reflect, reason, problem-solve and consider the consequences of the actions she may choose. This kind of self-awareness is critical for her future growth.

12. Trust— Your youngster needs to feel trust in you and in herself. Toward this goal, you should keep promises, be supportive and give your youngster opportunities to be trustworthy. This means believing your youngster, and treating her as an honest person.

Building self-esteem starts with the parents examining their own ideas of how they view children with Aspergers. We, as parents, must believe in our children’s value ourselves before we can ever change their minds. These children know when we're faking our compliments or arbitrarily handing out encouragement.

Building self-esteem involves empathy and walking in their shoes rather than sympathy – no one wants to be felt sorry for. Unfortunately, it is very common for parents to feel sorry for their Aspergers child, and as a result, adopt an "over-protective" parenting style. However, this type of parenting hinders the child's ability to develop "self-reliance" which, in turn, promotes poor self-esteem.

Each Aspergers youngster is a gift, with his own special qualities. We just need to look for these special gifts, tune into the youngster with our hearts, and bring his essence out.

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

4.5.19

How to Improve the Self-Image of a Child on the Autism Spectrum

 "Any tips on how to help my newly diagnosed daughter (high functioning autistic) to improve her self esteem. She thinks she's 'stupid' ...she thinks she's 'ugly' ...she thinks nobody likes her... I don't know where she's coming up with these negative evaluations of herself, but it breaks my heart. We are all a bit anxious since we got the news about this disorder. But how can I help my daughter have a better perspective of her true self and her strengths?"

The diagnostic criteria for High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's can be intimidating to moms and dads with kids who are newly diagnosed. The traits attributed to children on the spectrum can set a negative tone because of the focus on “disabilities” rather than abilities. Thus, parents should temper this information with a balanced perspective. The youngster has much to offer in the form of gifts and talents, and the attitude with which parents receive these “abilities” will directly influence his or her self-image.

Some mothers/fathers despair when they receive their youngster's diagnosis. Parents and the HFA child's siblings may perceive the diagnosis as hopeless or something that induces shame. Their rationale may be driven by several factors:
  • Conflicting pressures about proper child-rearing from family, neighbors, or friends
  • Conflicting pressures about proper intervention and support from doctors and other professionals
  • Insensitive presentation by a physician who focuses on disabilities
  • No access to literature or other educational materials that present a balanced perspective
  • No opportunities for contact with families in similar situations who are actually enjoying their HFA youngster
  • No previous exposure to people with differences who live well-adjusted, content lives
  • Projected anxieties about the youngster's future lack of independence and failure in adult life
  • Rumors and stereotypes about people with differences, including HFA

Some people have described HFA as “a neurological malady that dooms many of its victims to a lonely life and dead-end jobs despite higher-than-average intelligence.” When parents believe such upsetting, unrealistic stereotypes, anxiety around the diagnosis will naturally increase within the entire family. These and other negative stereotypes should never be projected on the child or communicated directly in front of her. Otherwise, a self-fulfilling prophecy can easily manifest itself (i.e., the child may come to believe that he/she is truly destined to be friend-less and job-less).
 

If an HFA child hears grown-ups refer to her only in negative terms, she believes it and, eventually, she becomes it. Being a sensitive child (as HFA children tend to be), she may naturally internalize, replay, and agonize over her “traits.”

Self-esteem is a powerful predictor of success. Not all HFA children have problems with social competence and self-esteem, but many do, and struggling daily with the challenges posed by having an Autism Spectrum Disorder can erode the enthusiasm and confidence that make learning fun. Knowing one's assets and liabilities, and feeling good about one's self can be an invaluable tool for negotiating the sometimes tumultuous path to achievement in school, success in the workplace, and acceptance at home and in the community at large.

Positive self-esteem is as important to success in school and on the job as the mastery of individual skills. And there's no question that doing something well helps a child feel better about himself, his accomplishments, and his potential to succeed in the future. Autism Spectrum Disorders, however, often pose formidable hurdles to positive self-esteem, and these in turn contribute to a hard-to-break cycle of self-doubt, frustration and failure.

Self-esteem can be described as how we think of ourselves and view ourselves in the context of our surroundings. Students in school have self-esteem shaped by how well they get along with peers and teachers. They are constantly making judgments about how "good" they are in comparison to their peers. Self-esteem is also shaped by how well children negotiate relationships with parents and siblings, and how successful they are in understanding and responding to many ever-changing interpersonal demands across many different settings. It is precisely in these areas that HFA children have the greatest difficulty, thus contributing to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Threats to Self-Esteem in Kids on the Autism Spectrum—

While there is no menu of characteristics that captures the threats to self-esteem in HFA children, there are a number of traits frequently observed in the child that contribute to feelings of low self-worth. A few of the factors that seem to impact self-esteem in some HFA children in negative ways include the following:
  • assumes a posture of "learned helplessness" (i.e., they assume that because they struggled with something in the past, there is little they can do to change a negative outcome in the future, so they may stop trying and hope for the best)
  • believes that outcomes are controlled by external influences (e.g., luck, chance, fate) rather than as a result of their own internal efforts
  • has difficulty judging when it is his/her turn to participate in a conversation
  • has great difficulty knowing how he/she fits in to a peer group, which often results in 'hanging back' or being a passive (rather than active) participant in activities
  • has limited success "self-marketing" and getting noticed in positive ways within a peer group
  • has limited vocabulary or difficulty retrieving the right words for the situation
  • has trouble with topic selection and knowing when to stop a conversation
  • is a poor self-observer and has trouble sizing up and reflecting upon what is going right (and wrong) during social interactions 
  • is frequently (albeit not intentionally) the target of spoken and unspoken messages of disappointment and lowered expectation by parents and others
  • is less likely than peers to use gestures and demonstrations when sharing information 
  • is more likely to repeat rather than clarify when asked to expand upon an explanation
  • is repeatedly confronted with messages of low expectations for academic achievement by teachers and parents
  • is viewed as having diminished potential for success, even with services and support in school and at home 
  • is weak in verbal pragmatics (i.e., fitting the use of language to social situations, for example, not knowing when or how to laugh without offending the listener)
  • may have problems with visual spatial planning and self-regulation, resulting in difficulties judging how close to stand to someone during conversation, how to assume and maintain a relaxed posture, and when it might be appropriate to touch 
  • may misinterpret feelings and emotions of others and not realize when their behaviors are bothersome or annoying
  • not sure how to understand or explain personal strengths and weaknesses to others
  • perceives self as less popular and more frequently rejected or ignored by peers (sometimes resulting in further self-imposed isolation) 
  • seems to be overly egocentric and not interested in the responses of other speakers (when nothing could be further from the truth)
  • talks around a topic and provides less critical (and more extraneous) information in response to a question

 
How Parents Can Help—

How can a parent help to foster healthy self-esteem in a youngster on the autism spectrum? These tips can make a big difference:

1. Be a positive role model. If you're excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your youngster may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your youngster will have a great role model.

2. Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your youngster's self-esteem. Give hugs and tell children you're proud of them. Pop a note in your youngster's lunchbox that reads, "I think you're terrific!" Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Children can tell whether something comes from the heart.

3. Build your youngster's sense of connectiveness. Physical touch and loving words from moms and dads are the first step.

4. Build your youngster's sense of uniqueness. Kids need to feel that others think they have special qualities and talents. Find opportunities to point these out to him.

5. Create a safe, loving home environment. Children who don't feel safe at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A youngster who is exposed to moms and dads who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn.

6. Deal with failure. If the youngster fails, he should not feel a failure. Teach your youngster that failure is only a temporary setback on the road to success.

7. Encourage your youngster's curiosity, creativity, and imagination. Teach him to satisfy curiosity with learning and convey the joy of learning in everything you do.

8. Give him responsibilities in the family and allow his input into decisions that affect him.

9. Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like "You always work yourself up into such a frenzy!" will make children feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, "You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn't yell at him or hit him." This acknowledges a youngster's feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the youngster to make the right choice again next time.

10. Help children become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older youngster helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both children.

11. Identify and redirect your youngster's inaccurate beliefs. It's important for moms and dads to identify children' irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they're about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping children set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to children. 
 

12. Let your youngster express himself in his own way. Show respect for his thoughts and feelings so he will learn to do the same.

13. Provide a broad range of experiences for your youngster so he will have more confidence in facing new experiences. At the same time maintain structure and order in your day-to-day life.

14. Provide many opportunities for him to practice new skills he learns. Teach him to cope with failure by analyzing it, setting reasonable standards, and not overreacting.

15. Provide opportunities for him to feel that he is a functional and important member of his family, school class, group of friends, sports team, church, neighborhood, and community.

16. Teach him good problem-solving and decision-making skills. Teach him to prioritize, think about consequences, and plan a course of action.

17. Teach your youngster good social and conversational skills by modeling, direct teaching, and guided practice. These skills will enable him to have positive interactions with others.

18. Teach your youngster to set minor and major goals. Be specific in your expectations and the standards and consequences for his behavior.

19. Tell him your family stories and talk about his ancestors, heritage, and nationality in a positive way.

20. Watch what you say. Children are very sensitive to moms and dads' words. Remember to praise your youngster not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your youngster doesn't make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, "Well, next time you'll work harder and make it." Instead, try "Well, you didn't make the team, but I'm really proud of the effort you put into it." Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.

Your child will rely on you to provide a solid foundation of self-worth. Equipped with healthy self-esteem, she will be better prepared to enter into a life that will likely present many challenges.

Think of the areas in which your youngster is naturally gifted:
  • Does she have the quiet reverence to render amazing watercolors?
  • Does she enjoy describing the exact alignment of the solar system's planets, identifying each by correct name, placement, and color?
  • Does she assume the personality traits of a favorite cartoon character with uncanny accuracy, down to mimicking lines of dialogue?
  • Does her comprehension of computer programs exceed that of many adults?

At every opportunity, reinforce to your child how special she is to you. Tell her that you are delighted when she shares her astronomy charts with you. Highlight your youngster's talents when talking with family and friends. Prominently display her works of art. You will be surprised at the long-lasting impact these moments will have as you mold your child into young adulthood.

The autistic youngster instinctively wants to be good, to fit in, and to be just like other children. She will be best poised to do that if she feels safe and comfortable in knowing there is a place where she is unconditionally loved and understood.

4.3.18

Modeling Imperfection: One Simple Trick for Building Self-Esteem in Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Young people with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) often lack the necessary skills to perform certain tasks - and may display behaviors that help them avoid or escape such unwanted tasks. For instance:
  • The child who is overwhelmed by too many instructions regarding a particular homework assignment may launch into a tantrum and quit. This refusal to complete homework is often viewed as defiance in the eyes of the parent.
  • The aurally-sensitive student who has difficulty focusing in class due to noises outside the classroom may have a meltdown (e.g., slamming his book shut and screaming that he doesn’t want to read). This may be viewed as lazy or obstinate behavior by the teacher.

Kids on the autism spectrum often display perplexing and contradictory profiles of behavior and performance. Some perform certain tasks very well, while struggling significantly in other areas. For example, the youngster may be one of the smartest students in the class, but has difficulty behaving appropriately when placed into a reading group with his peers due to social skills deficits.



Despite the efforts of parents and educators for the Asperger’s of HFA youngster’s overall success, his frequent failures and subsequent disappointments often result in feeling a sense of helplessness. The child may think he’s “stupid” and believe there is nothing he can do to be accepted by his peers or to be understood by his teachers. Even if such a child is successful at a particular task, he may attribute it to luck rather than hard work and intelligence. This is a sure sign that a self-fulling prophecy is in the making (i.e., because the child strongly believes he cannot succeed in a certain area, he indeed does fail in that area).
 
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kids on the autism spectrum often have a few “special interests” or preferred activities in which they excel greatly. But with subject matter of lesser interest, they struggle – especially in the social realm. For example, they may be able to talk in great detail about the dinosaurs that existed in Jurassic period, but have no idea how to start and end a conversation. The HFA youngster’s social skills deficits often result in an emotional pounding that affects her everyday interactions with parents, siblings, educators, classmates, and others in the community.

Having social problems takes a toll on a youngster’s self-esteem. Kids on the spectrum may (a) have difficulty asking for help with peer-related situations, (b) lack the social-emotional skills necessary to handle peer pressure, bullying, and reading social cues, and (c) have difficulty knowing how to interact appropriately with their teacher, classmates, and the opposite gender.

The HFA child’s behavioral problems that often result from poor self-esteem include the following:
  • Avoiding doing homework assignments
  • Blaming the educator for bad grades
  • Exhibiting physical ailments (e.g., stomach aches, headaches)
  • Exhibiting emotional problems (e.g., anxiety, depression)
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Not wanting to show parents homework
  • Refusing to talk to parents or teachers about academic problems in order to avoid confrontation
  • Refusing to do an in-class assignment or task
  • Refusing to follow classroom rules in order to be removed from the classroom and avoid doing work
  • Negative self-talk such as, “I’m dumb. I quit. I can’t do it.”
  • Saying the work is too difficult
  • Skipping class

Social-emotional development is a key aspect of growth for kids on the autism spectrum. Many of these “special needs” children struggle with building self-esteem. Methods to address low self-esteem in the forlorn child will change from day to day, and will vary depending on his or her personality. Clearly, what helps one child to feel more capable and confident may not help another. In any event, there are ways to address this issue.
 
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Here’s a simple, yet highly effective strategy for improving the self-esteem in HFA children:

Parents and teachers can share stories about their own struggles and mistakes growing up. This will (a) help them to relate to the “special needs” child, and (b) provide strategies that worked versus those that didn’t quite pan out. When caring adults show the child that they can relate to his or her lack of confidence, the child realizes that this problem is universal. He or she doesn’t feel so “all alone” on the matter. Also, showing the child that we, as adults, were able to shed most of our own insecurities and improve self-esteem overtime offers a model for success in this area.

Case in point: One teacher hung two pictures outside of her classroom - her school photo from 5th grade and another from 9th grade. These photos were beyond embarrassing for her, but she wanted to make a point. Her students knew all too well that, because hormones run high and self-esteem runs low, adolescence presents plenty of difficulties. By sharing her own weaknesses, exhibiting authenticity, and discussing her own fluctuations of self-worth, this teacher lead by example and fostered positive self-images in her classroom.

It’s not uncommon for children to expect perfection from their parents and teachers to a certain degree. For example, they may think it’s funny when their father accidentally stumbles while walking through the Mall, or they may be shocked and humored if their teacher miscalculates, misspells, or misinterprets something. While mildly embarrassing to the adults, these rather amusing occurrences are beneficial to building a child’s self-esteem, because he or she realizes that even people who are supposedly perfect are really imperfect.

Take full advantage of your blunders, and know that it models for your child or student that: “It’s O.K. to make mistakes. We all do. And that doesn’t make us less of a person.” When we, as adults, capitalize on these opportunities, we shatter the belief that perfection is the key to high self-esteem. This realization that everyone makes mistakes helps the discouraged child to accept his own missteps.

Another great way to promote healthy self-esteem in kids on the spectrum is to have a conversation that involves discussions about the future. Due to the symptoms of their disorder, these young people often get caught up by problems happening in the here-and-now. They seem to be developmentally prone to “sweat the small stuff.” Thus, an honest discussion about how to look past any current problems and put things into perspective will foster a positive outlook.

If we, as parents and teachers, do not present our true selves, how can we expect a “special needs” child to feel comfortable enough to show her own true colors? In order to promote these themes of self-confidence, integrity, and authenticity, we must truly practice what we preach.


2.12.09

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.

Post your comment below…

5.10.11

Self-Help Strategies: 25 Tips for Teens on the Autism Spectrum

“I'm dumb.” “Nobody likes me.” “I can’t find any friends.” “I can’t talk to girls.” “I’m such a nerd.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? Are you used to putting yourself down? If so, you're not alone. As an Aspergers (AS) or high functioning autistic (HFA) teen, you're going through a ton of changes. And as you change, so does your image of yourself. Lots of teens have trouble adjusting, and this can affect their self-esteem.

Here are some self-help strategies to help you rid yourself of negative, defeating self-talk:

1. A positive, optimistic attitude can help teens with AS and HFA develop strong self-esteem - for example, saying, "Hey, I'm human" …instead of, "Wow, I'm such a loser" …when you've made a mistake, or not blaming others when things don't go as expected.

2. As one Aspergers teenager said, "Parents just don’t understand" (understatement of the year, huh?). It may seem like there’s no way your mother or father will be able to help, especially if they are always nagging you or getting angry about your behavior. The truth is that parents hate to see their children suffering. Parents may feel frustrated, because they don’t understand what is going on with you or know how to help. Many moms and dads don’t know enough about the disorder to know how to deal with it. So, it may be up to you to educate them. You can refer them to a website, or look for further information at the library.

3. Family life can sometimes influence self-esteem. Some mothers and fathers spend more time criticizing their teens and the way they look than praising them, which can reduce the teen’s ability to develop good self-esteem. So, if your parents are overly critical, tell them that you need some encouragement from time to time. They may not realize they have been coming down hard on you.

4. For many teen on the autism specrrum, common strengths include high intelligence and a strong interest in at least one area of narrow focus. While this narrow focus can have its drawbacks, it can also be harnessed as an asset in many ways. For example, a lover of video games may become a computer programmer someday.

5. Identify which aspects of your appearance you can realistically change and which ones you can't. Everyone has things about themselves that they can't change and need to accept — like their height, for example, or their shoe size.

6. If there are things about yourself that you want to change, do this by making goals for yourself. For example, if you want to get fit, make a plan to exercise every day and eat nutritious foods. Then keep track of your progress until you reach your goal. Meeting a challenge you set for yourself is a great way to boost self-esteem!

7. If you learn to be kind to yourself and avoid judging yourself, you will find that what you practice and what you apply from self-help techniques can and will be very helpful.

8. If you’re depressed, you may not feel like seeing anybody or doing anything. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be difficult, but isolating yourself only makes depression worse. Make it a point to stay social – even if that’s the last thing you want to do. As you get out into the world, you may find yourself feeling better.

9. If your feelings are uncontrollable, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before you take any action. This can give you time to really think things through and give yourself some distance from the strong emotions that are plaguing you. During this 24-hour period, try to talk to someone—anyone. Talk to a parent or a friend. What do you have to lose?

10. It is important to realize that a lot of what "special needs" teenagers do differently, or the ways in which they may think differently, can be positively framed in realizing their capability to function in and through what is a different ability.

11. Knowing what makes you happy and how to meet your goals can help you feel capable, strong, and in control of your life. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle (such as exercising and eating right) are a great combination for building good self-esteem.

12. Making healthy lifestyle choices can do wonders for your mood. Things like diet and exercise have been shown to help anxiety and depression. Ever heard of a "runners high"? You actually get a rush of endorphins from exercising, which makes you feel instantly happier. Physical activity can be as effective as medications or therapy for depression, so get involved in sports, ride your bike, or take a dance class. Any activity helps! Even a short walk can be beneficial.

13. Many teens on the spectrum exhibit extensive knowledge of a specific interest and therefore are capable of major accomplishments.

14. One of the major aspects of self-help is learning more about self-acceptance and respecting differences, to the degree that you understand the ways in which you are different from the “neurotypical” teenager.

15. Regarding your body-image, recognize that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or color it comes in. If you're very worried about your weight or size, check with your doctor to verify that things are OK. But it's no one's business but your own what your body is like — ultimately, you have to be happy with yourself.

16. Some AS and HFA teens may become depressed, lose interest in activities or friends — and even hurt themselves or resort to alcohol or drug abuse. If you're feeling this way, it can help to talk to a parent, coach, religious leader, guidance counselor, therapist, or an adult friend. A trusted adult — someone who supports you and doesn't bring you down — can help you put your circumstances in perspective and give you positive feedback about your skills and abilities.

17. Spend time with friends, especially those who are active, upbeat, and make you feel good about yourself. Avoid hanging out with those who abuse drugs or alcohol, get you into trouble, or who make you feel insecure. It’s also a good idea to limit the time you spend playing video games or surfing online.

18. Stress and worry can take a big toll, even leading to depression. Talk to a teacher or school counselor if exams or classes seem overwhelming.

19. The AS or HFA teen is NOT disabled; rather, he is “differently abled.” The key is changing the way you think about difference and being the one that is different.

20. Understand that self-esteem is all about how much people value themselves, the pride they feel in themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect how you act. A person who has high self-esteem will make friends easily, is more in control of his or her behavior, and will enjoy life more.

21. What neurotypical people call “dysfunction” can be turned into your own understanding of many different ways that you actually DO function.

22. When you hear negative comments coming from within yourself, tell yourself to stop. Try building your self-esteem by giving yourself three compliments every day. While you're at it, every evening list three things in your day that really gave you pleasure. It can be anything from the way the sun felt on your face, the sound of your favorite band, or the way someone laughed at your jokes. By focusing on the good things you do and the positive aspects of your life, you can change how you feel about yourself.

23. You can create change in your life just like anyone else. Change for some teens on the spectrum means personal growth and evolution in understanding and learning. For others, it might be more about finding productive and workable compensatory strategies.

24. You may be tempted to drink or use drugs in an effort to escape from your feelings and get a "mood boost", even if just for a short time. However, substance use can not only make depression worse, but can cause you to become depressed in the first place. Alcohol and drug use can also increase suicidal feelings. In short, drinking and taking drugs will make you feel worse—not better—in the long run.

25. You might be surprised at how many other AS and HFA teens suffer from anxiety and/or depression. You are not alone, and your negative emotions are not a hopeless case. Even though it can feel like your unwanted emotions will never leave, they eventually will.

Here's what one parent had to say about her HFA teen: "In our family, we embrace the 'nerd' thing. Hang out with other nerds, watch TV shows with nerds. Being a nerd is OK. I have raised 5 kids, I would much rather have nerdy kids than 'cool' kids :)"


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

18.5.08

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


COMMENTS:

•    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…

5.9.09

Aspergers Children and Poor Self-Esteem

Question

Can children with aspergers/asd seem to become worse as they get older? At the ages from 2 to 6, my daughter was very hyperactive. As the years have gone on, she seems more withdrawn, quieter, and far more emotional. She is also becoming less and less sociable with other children that are her age.


Answer

Young people with Aspergers 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 can also have a direct impact on a youngster's self-esteem. These are areas that do not come easily to young people or adults with Aspergers. 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 an Aspergers spectrum disorder 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 Aspergers. 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.

But how do we really build their self-esteem? It starts with us examining our own ideas of how we view young people with Aspergers. 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 Aspergers. Explain Aspergers to everyone involved with the youngster. This will increase their empathy and provide opportunities for genuine praise and encouragement. Explain Aspergers 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 Aspergers label or we try to camouflage it? Who are we hurting? It's the youngster with Aspergers 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 moms & dads and professionals all you can to help integration and provide a deeper understanding when trying to teach particular skills. Be intuitive when advocating for young people 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 Aspergers. 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 Aspergers.

By teaching others about Aspergers, more people will become aware of this invisible disability. When people understand empathetically, they will more naturally accept the youngster with Aspergers, 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."

Young people with Aspergers 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 Aspergers 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.

Encourage young people to share their thoughts and feelings; this is so important and often sheds new light on existing situations. My son, Jonathan 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 Aspergers 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 Jonathan'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 Jonathan 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:

-The essence of our being is love
-Health is inner peace Live in the now
-Become love finders rather than fault finders
-Learn to love others and ourselves by forgiving rather than judging
-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 Aspergers 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.

Look for the Miracles Daily, there are miracles and good things happening all around us. Learn intimately the challenges that young people with Aspergers 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 young people and adults with Aspergers 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 Aspergers is like this precious gem, unique in every way. Without the tiny inclusions, there would be no star. It is our job as moms & dads, educators and professionals to "bring out the stars" in all of our special young people 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.

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