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How to Praise Autistic Kids

by Amber Keefer, studioD

Praising children helps boost their self-esteem and build confidence in what they can accomplish. Although not all children with autism spectrum disorders are motivated by praise, many, especially younger children, will respond if you offer a tangible reward along with your praise. Positive reinforcement builds an autistic child’s self-esteem, motivating her as she grows confident in her abilities, according to Autism Treatment Services of Canada.

Reward your child when he demonstrates appropriate behavior or completes a task. Choose as a reward something he will work for. Always praise him first and then give him the reward. Change the rewards you give him often. That way he won’t get tired of receiving the same object for his efforts and become less motivated over time.

Let your child know specifically what behavior you are praising. This strategy usually works well with kids on the autism spectrum, notes HelpGuide.org. Acknowledging each time your child displays appropriate behaviors will help her appreciate what she achieved.

Speak in a quiet tone when you praise your child. Autistic kids who have sensory issues often are over-stimulated when other people use loud voices. Praising autistic kids loudly can upset some kids.

Focus your praise on your child’s efforts rather than the outcome. Praise him for not giving up as he works toward achieving a goal. Let him know what it is he is doing right. Recognizing your child’s persistence and hard work matters more than the result, says psychologist Paul Donahue, author of “Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Really Matters,” in an article at WebMD.com.

Be sincere when you offer praise. Your child wants to know that you mean what you say. Whether she completes a task successfully, making positive comments about her efforts tells her you are paying attention to what she is doing, points out Parents.com. Consistently praising and rewarding your child for good behavior might increase the frequency of appropriate behaviors.

Tell your child you are proud of him for trying new activities. Letting him know you believe he can do it will give him the confidence he needs to try again if it doesn’t go right the first time. You can help in this area by regularly exposing him to new activities, if only for brief periods to start.

Praise your child for staying with a task. Tell him he should be proud of himself for what he has accomplished. Even if your autistic child doesn’t seem interested in pleasing other people, instilling self-pride is often a motivator to continue a positive behavior. UChicagoNews reports that a study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago found that when parents praise their children’s efforts, kids are more likely to take on challenges and come up with ways for improving their performance.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

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