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During teens and adolescents individuals begin to develop a sense of personal identity and self-esteem. Teenagers diagnosed with ASD can find it harder than typical developing teenagers to form their identity. They may also find it difficult to build their self-esteem and view themselves as valuable members of daily society with individual strengths and skills.
Within today’s society there is an increasing pressure regarding social expectations and appearance for all but especially teenagers. Therefore, often have a negative comparison of themselves to others around them and being able to recognise their strengths in comparison to others. Typically developing teenagers often learn about themselves from their peer group however, for a child who may experience difficulties with social interactions and developing a peer group this may be more challenging. Therefore, it may become apparent to your child that they are ‘different’ in relation to how they interpret social interactions such as humour or interpret information differently. Therefore, a child may perceive themselves as everything being easy for other people and everything harder for them and therefore, may see themselves as needing ‘fixing’.
Social situations are often anxiety provoking for individuals who sometimes find it difficult to understanding true meanings behind the use of language. This can impact on their self-esteem as they may perceive humour or jokes as a serious comment about themselves or about others, think that well-meaning comments are a criticism and feel they stand out from the crowd. These thoughts can then be reinforced in situations whereby they may not be invited to groups, parties or left out of games and conversations (although not all notice).
If good self-esteem is not successfully developed then you may see signs such as an individual who requests you do things for them or reluctance to try something new due to fear of failure, talking negatively about self, gives up easily, low mood and withdrawal. Due to the level of anxiety created by low self-esteem this greatly impacts on an individual’s process skills and ability to communicate and express self effectively and therefore, may be reluctant to seek help or have difficulty telling others they don’t understand.
If poor self-esteem is recognised in an individual with ASD, there are small but effective ways in which you can support the individual to increase their confidence and self-esteem. Being a positive role model is key therefore, observing family/friends who are positive about self, make mistakes but are not overly self-critical and normalise this, being confident, behave appropriately and model positive interaction with others. Praising or rewarding effort and not just success if paramount in order to promote self-esteem and positive engagement. Draw on your child’s strength enabling them to successfully participate in tasks/jobs within school and home environment will support grading of tasks to their current level of ability, gradually increasing confidence and independence. Whilst doing so a tick chart can promote a sense of accomplishment and achievement. There are many positives that individuals with ASD experience and therefore, developing a positive scrapbook to celebrate achievements (e.g. including certificates, photos etc) is a great resource for your child to look at and make them feel proud of what they have achieved and the positive journey they have taken to become the individual they are today.