What type of messages do you think are going on inside your child's mind? Children with special needs such as Autism will intuitively grasp that they are different and pick up on the less than positive judgments from others - however subtle they may be.
Do you pay attention to that voice inside your head? I am not talking about auditory hallucinations here. I am referring to the things we say to ourselves everyday. That continuous chatter of our inner dialogues that typically never stops unless we actively meditate.
Experts tell us that we are constantly talking to ourselves, using between 150 and 300 words a minute to be exact. We plan what needs to be done next or we review things that just happened. Most of this self-talk is harmless yet some of it is detrimental to our self-worth. "That was so stupid of me." or "I will never be popular... thin, smart, pretty, etc." You know what I am talking about. We battle with this every day.
Having some negative self-talk from time to time is to be expected but it is important to be mindful about how often we do this so that it doesn't become our default mode. Unfortunately, these malicious little voices can be even more powerful than positive affirmations because we often find them easier to accept.
Each pessimistic thought or word is a negative affirmation and has the capacity to do a lot of damage if allowed to continue. Self-fulfilling prophecies are built from the thoughts that run inside our heads so repeating positive messages makes better sense if we want to create optimistic possibilities.
We will begin to accept whatever our conscious mind comes to believe, it's that simple. But turning off the negative isn't really that simple to do and if it isn't easy for us as adults think of how difficult it is for our children.
Solution: Teach kids positive affirmations at an early age.
Regardless of your child's challenges and abilities - ALL children will benefit from learning to listen to the positive voices inside their heads and if they don't have many, we need to help them develop some. The more we help our children focus on positive self-talk the more it will minimize the self-blame and doubt that sprouts from paying too much attention to the negative.
As adults we can prevent them from creating a broken record of negative self-talk that gets in the way of progress. We can give our children a jumpstart by teaching them positive affirmations while they are young, setting the stage for good habits to take hold.
For those of you who saw the movie, The Help, there is a powerful example of helping a child develop positive affirmations when Aibileen, a third generation housemaid, who has helped raise seventeen children, teaches Mae, the little girl currently in her care, to repeat the words, "I am smart, I am kind, I am important."
When we encourage our kids to speak and believe such statements instead of "I can't... " or "I should..." etc we are giving them the best gift there is to help them reach their full potential and experience success in life.
In order to get these statements to soak deep into their subconscious mind we can also write these affirmations down and post them in places that our child is apt to run into on a daily basis. The bathroom mirror, their bedside table, the refrigerator, the TV or computer screen and their lunchbox are all good examples of where to place affirmations.
Depending on where your child is on the Autism spectrum, he or she may be more visual and think in pictures. Therefore, find visual pictures that represent the affirmation you want them to absorb and cut them out. Have them look for pictures of what is important to them or what they are good at (or want to be good at).
You can then use these photographs and pictures to make a vision board with your child. This is a great tool to create a positive atmosphere in a child's bedroom, a place where they can refer to it often. Doing this activity together will not only enhance your connection to your child but it will also give you insight into their likes and dislikes, their passions and interests.
They sooner we can help our children to acquire a habit of dismissing the negative dialogue inside their heads and replacing it with positive and affirming self-talk, the sooner our children will be on the road to maximizing their potential. It is a well-known fact that maintaining good thoughts about one's self creates a mindset conducive to growth and an attitude and spirit that is ripe for blossoming. What better gift can you give a child with Autism?
Connie Hammer, MSW, parent educator, consultant and coach, guides parents of young children recently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to uncover abilities and change possibilities. Visit her website http://www.parentcoachingforautism.com to get your FREE resources - a parenting e-course, Parenting a Child with Autism - 3 Secrets to Thrive and a weekly parenting tip newsletter, The Spectrum.
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