5 Tips to Help Your Teen with Autism Improve Their Self-Confidence

Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodivergent condition that affects the brain process. The spectrum is incredibly vast, which can mean some individuals may need more day-to-day support than others. Some may also experience a lack of confidence, which can be due to social difficulties, stigma, and sensory sensitivity. A lack of self-confidence can also be an issue for many neurodivergent teenagers. This stage of life can be challenging for many parents and children, with exam stress, friendship fallouts, and beginning to consider careers all to contend with. But if you’ve noticed that your neurodivergent teen is finding this time particularly trying, we’ve compiled our top tips on how you can help strengthen their confidence and self-esteem, supporting them to become more self-assured.

  1. Celebrate Their Strengths

Having low confidence can stem from feeling different to others. For neurodivergent teens, this might, but not necessarily, be due to having different hobbies and interests from those around them or having difficulty with socialising.

As a parent, you can help your teen build a positive self-identity by encouraging them to consider what makes them great. It might feel difficult for your child to think of themselves in a way they haven’t before, so you may want to offer suggestions such as if they are especially kind, or fantastic at cooking. Or perhaps you’re amazed by their creativity and the artwork they produce. Try to be consistent with this over time, reinforcing the importance of acknowledging one’s strengths and being kind to yourself.

  1. Explore Special Interests

A trait that many neurodivergent individuals share is having special interests. These interests can vary in nature, but some examples include a specific country, animal, sport, a particular game, or gardening to name a few.

Special interests can have several benefits including helping to shape identity, provide a sense of purpose, and be a form of emotional expression. Because of how focused special interests can be, it’s likely your teen will have developed an in-depth knowledge of this subject area. By supporting your teen to embrace this, you’re not only aiding them to recognise their own talent, but they may even gain appreciation from others.

  1. Help Them to Deal with Change

Routine and structure can be important for many neurodivergent individuals. This is because predictability can be a source of comfort and offer a feeling of stability. However, when times get turbulent (as the teenage years often can!), routines don’t always go to plan. Therefore, you might find it helpful to know how to support your child to prepare for when it does occur so that they can approach new situations with more confidence.

You could think about contacting your teen’s school to discuss how any upcoming exams will affect their typical day, for example. Clearly communicate with your child what this means for them, also using visual aids such as an updated timetable, if this would be of benefit.

  1. Encourage Movement

Movement can be a great tool in supporting your Teen's active lifestyle, with benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. Some neurodivergent people may find exercise particularly challenging. This can be due to sensory differences, communication, and social skills that are often associated with sports. But this isn’t to say these challenges must become barriers to accessing exercise.

You may want to suggest a few activities that you think your teen would enjoy. Movement is incredibly versatile and by trying something new, your child can also improve on their social and emotional development. They may even find something that they can excel at; this can also help to improve their confidence levels.

  1. Support Them to Say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’

We often hear about the power of no. And whilst it’s true that learning to say ‘no’ is a great way to set boundaries, saying ‘yes’ to new opportunities can also be incredibly liberating.

It can be easy for anyone to want to remain in their comfort zone and comfort zones can provide a safe haven, making it even harder to leave. But, always remaining comfortable can make situations outside of your comfort zone harder to navigate every time they arise.

So, you might find it helpful to address some scenarios your teen usually struggles with, so that they may now have the chance to say ‘yes’ to. This could be saying ‘yes’ to going to the cinema with a friend, or even saying ‘yes’ to answering the door, if this is something they usually find difficult.

Being a teen can be tough, and being neurodivergent can bring its own challenges too. But by advocating for, and celebrating your child, your support can really contribute towards improving their self-confidence to set them up for success.