Promoting Self Esteem in a Special Needs Child
Because special needs children face a broad spectrum of challenges from emotional to behavioral and educational, developing confidence in their own abilities, also known as self-esteem, is not as straightforward as it might be for a neurotypical child. But it is essential for anyone’s well-being to develop positive self-esteem. According to Kidshealth.org, self esteem develops “because a child feels safe, loved, and accepted.” Here are some specific ways parents can help foster those feelings.
Accepting your child’s limits is essential for your child’s confidence. While parents may deal with conflicting emotions around their child’s special needs, it is important for the kids to know that they are accepted and loved for who they are. This includes accepting their unique limits and abilities even if you want the child to progress past them.
Focus on Talents
Children gain self-esteem when they do something well. Help your child focus on what they are really good at and encourage them to use those skills as much as possible. Everyone has things they can’t do and things they can do. Not all students will excel in academic skills, and this may feel demoralizing to the child, but when a parent pays attention to and celebrates their positive traits, this will remind them that they have other reasons to be confident even if academics is not their biggest strength. Helping kids discover and rejoice in their unique strengths will set them up for confidence and success.
Children with special needs may be extra-sensitive to their slower rate of learning and feel discouraged when their efforts don’t result in immediate success. It helps to remind them that everyone struggles when learning something new. As a parent, you can break difficult tasks into smaller tasks. Then celebrate the accomplishment of each step, no matter how small.
Having their own responsibilities allows kids to feel capable and confident. Completing simple chores provides the opportunity for pride to grow. Give your child realistic responsibilities according to his or her abilities. Even if your child doesn’t want to do the chore, having the responsibility and knowing that others are depending on him or her to accomplish the task builds self-esteem and a sense of connection and achievement.
Praise or other types of rewards can reinforce the child’s sense of accomplishment. Appropriate positive reinforcement methods include praise, stickers, hugs, a special toy, or extra time for favorite activities. In contrast, while negative reinforcement can initially seem to dissuade bad behavior, over time, it can have a damaging effect on self-esteem. Negative reinforcement leads to anxiety, insecurity, depression and anger.
Spend Some Time
Show your child that he or she is worth your undivided attention by setting aside quality time every day to do things together. Let your child share with you his or her favorite activities, or invent special traditions to share together, like a bedtime cuddle, or an after-dinner dance party. By showing your kids that you enjoy their company, you are helping to build their trust and self-worth.
Alpha School an private special education school in New Jersey
Our Mission at The Alpha School is to help all of our special needs students with the learning, social, language, and behavioral support they deserve. Our highly skilled staff are committed daily to helping each student to becoming the best they can while providing a safe and nurturing educational environment.
We would be more than happy to discuss your child’s specific needs and challenges, so please call us at 732.370.1150, or request a tour of Alpha School of Jackson, NJ located just minutes off of Route 9 and Route 195 in Ocean County.
— John Gonzalez, Principal-Alpha School, Jackson, NJ