When you recognise and build on the strengths, interests and talents of your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you can develop and strengthen your child’s confidence and self-esteem. Everyday activities give you lots of opportunities to do this.
Why confidence is important for children and teenagers
Children and teenagers who are confident can cope better when things go wrong. They’re less likely to feel afraid in new or unexpected situations.
But children and teenagers with low self-confidence can be upset when they face difficulties, and might be less likely to try new things. They’re more likely to be hard on themselves and might think they ‘can’t do anything right’, regardless of their ability.
Confidence grows when children and teenagers have success and understand that they’re good at things. By paying special attention to your child’s strengths, you can develop and strengthen her confidence and self-esteem.
The difficulties and challenges faced by children and teenagers with ASD often become the centre of attention. But these children have lots of strengths too, so building their confidence by focusing on what they’re good at is especially important and helpful.
Identifying strengths in your child with autism spectrum disorder
It’s not always easy to see the strengths of your child with ASD. Here are some tips that might help you recognise them:
You can read more about helping your child develop everyday skills, building your child’s thinking and learning strengths and helping your child develop play skills.
Special interests: strengths for your child with autism spectrum disorder
Many children and teenagers with ASD have special interests. You can see these as strengths and use them to improve your child’s learning, social skills and self-esteem.
For example, you could use a child’s:
You can also use your child’s special interest to encourage and develop friendships. For example, if your child has a special interest in computers, she might find it easier to relate to another child with the same special interest.
Building on strengths in your child with autism spectrum disorder
Here are some ideas to help you with developing personal strengths, interests and talents in your child with ASD.
Personalised strengths book
A personalised strengths book is a book about your child. It could include:
Strengths cards are cards that illustrate different strengths, qualities or abilities. You can buy them, or you could make your own with your child.
To make them, cut out pictures from magazines or the internet that show various strengths and stick the pictures on cardboard. You could include strengths like ‘I am brave’, ‘I am easy to get along with’, and ‘I am a good listener’.
Here are a couple of ways you can use the cards:
Social Stories™ are stories that explain social situations to children with ASD. You can also use them as a creative way to celebrate your child’s successes and talents. For example, you could write a Social Story™ about your child’s successes or talents and include related photos or work samples in it. This creates a positive record that helps your child understand her strengths and value.
Physical activities can help build your child’s self-confidence by giving him a sense of achievement when he masters a new skill. If your child does these activities with others, they can also be a good way for him to practise social skills.
Drama classes can give your child the opportunity to learn about feelings and interact with peers. Because drama classes are structured, they might cause less anxiety for your child. And role-play can give your child the opportunity to practise social skills and build her confidence.
Everyone loves praise, and children love it most of all. So praise and encouragement are powerful ways to strengthen your child’s self-esteem. Praise your child’s effort, and describe exactly what it is that you like. For example, ‘Wow! You’ve really worked hard at building that Lego® set’, or ‘I really appreciate that you helped fold the clothes’.