Emotional development happens according to your child’s cognitive or developmental age rather than his age in years. For example, your child might be 13 but be more like a 9-year-old in emotional development and behaviour.
Building self-esteem and self-identity when your child has autism spectrum disorder
Talking about being different
Talking with your child about how everybody is different – which is what makes us interesting – can help your child see herself as a valuable part of society.
You can help your child understand that people can look, speak, think or act differently from each other – and this is OK. Although your child might feel different from other children at school, or people might tell him that he’s different, he’s not the only one who is different.
You could turn this into a Social Story™.
Joining an activity that she enjoys, like a sports club or a band, can help your child build a better sense of her strengths, what she enjoys and where she fits in. It’s also a good chance for her to develop and practise her social skills and mix with teenagers who don’t have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Getting involved with other teenagers who do have ASD can help your child to understand more about ASD and the different ways it can affect people. He’ll be able to share his own experiences with an understanding audience. Your state autism association or local council can help you find a local group.
Thinking about ‘me’
You can encourage your child to think about:
- what she likes and doesn’t like
- her personality – for example, whether she’s generous, artistic, polite and so on
- what words she would use to describe herself to others.
One way to get your child thinking about himself is to help him create an ‘All about me’ book. This might include pictures of things your child likes, pictures of friends or things about his hobbies and achievements. Drawings or craft creations from when your child was younger can remind him of past experiences. Things like school reports can help your child think about past and current achievements.
When your child comes up with a list of words to describe herself, these can go into her book.
Knowing about family
Your child’s self-identity also comes from knowing about his family. You could show your child things like family photographs and include these in his ‘All about me’ book too.
It might also help your child to hear about your experiences of growing up and being a teenager, especially if your child doesn’t have a lot of support from peers and friends.