Our kids with autism encounter rejection, blame, and failure a lot. And yet, these same kids show up to school, to birthday parties, to sports activities time and again knowing that they will struggle once again. In a world where we tend to focus on deficits and challenges, perhaps it is imperative that we speak the language of courage with our children and students. Words such as: courage, bravery, adventurousness, determination and tenacity need to be a part of our communication and daily language. Focusing on strengths and honouring attempts at courage is the key to building self esteem. A mentor who tells me that I DO have what it takes and highlights the tenacity I have demonstrated in the past is truly inspiring.
Consider keeping a Courage Journal with your child or student. How useful it might be to be able to look back on all of those times when the individual showed courage in the face of fear and anxiety? The power of the written word is far more convincing than a verbal reminder. Plus, a child could add pictures or record events themselves in order to keep the journal real and relevant.
Today I took two bites of broccoli…I feel good about myself…but I still don’t like broccoli!
Today I let Ben play with my Lego…I feel like a good friend.
Today I allowed mom to cut my nails…I feel brave.
Today I wore a new shirt…I feel itchy but proud to be flexible.
Today I ordered my own meal at the restaurant…I feel courageous.
Today I took a bus to the swimming pool by myself… I feel independent.
Today I stayed calm when bowling was cancelled…I am proud of myself.
By writing about their own courageous actions our children will learn to develop the esteem they need to take risks and move beyond anxiety, rejection and failure. We too, will be more inclined to look for moments of courage in our children’s and students’ lives (and our own lives).
Honour courage in yourself and in individuals with autism and other special needs.