Benefits of empowering and supporting the participation of children and young people with autism

Empowerment allows children and young people with autism to form and voice their views and opinions about the decisions that affect them.

This process may make a long time for the child or young person to assimilate, accommodate and feel at ease with, as he or she will also have to understand the subtle social nuances and mores needed to voice concerns in a socially appropriate way.

Participation in on going, continually revisited, and reviewed, Self/Student/Pupil Planning, which must be culturally and contextually relevant on terms of population and setting, is important as it affords the chance to say how he or she feels, what would help him or her to learn, achieve, and succeed in a variety of environments, home, school and in the community,

feelings of empowerment may moderate the threat and stress inherent in difficult times by providing the resources of human capability and psychological strengths needed for individuals to persevere” (Spreitzer and Doneson, 2005, p. 16)

All children and young people must feel as if they trust the adults to ensure that the voiced concerns are valued.

Where possible, and if the child or young person can or wants to the following steps may be taken

  • Consult with and involve the child or young person, his or her voice deserves to be heard.
  • Once the child or young person voices concerns, as parents and educators, we must listen, for some children and young people, if they do not use language, we must be open to listening in a variety of ways, remembering that a change in behaviour generally indicates a level of communication.
  • We need to be honest with the child or young person, his or her expectation may be unrealistic. However, as we are aware of the child or young person’s difficulty with Executive Function, we must be on-hand to offer alternative opinions or strategies which may assist with achievement
  • As parents and educators, we must offer time, an elusive commodity at times, but many children and young people need this time to formulate ideas, work them through and develop conclusions.
  • From being heard, we have the chance of supporting the development of the child or young person’s self-esteem

Whilst being mindful of cognitive ability, we must address the following,

  1. Patience, teach and let the child or young person learn patience, waiting.
  2. Give responsibility, something to care for
    • Their room
    • The pet dog
    • The flower bed
    • Own actions
  3. Teach respect. (Volume control, How to respect others)
  4. Be an effective role model
  5. Being grateful, showing gratitude
    • Please and thank you are useful implements in your tool kit
    • Knowing what counts is maybe more useful than learning to count
    • Quote from Temple Grandin
  6. Teach and instill cause and effect, if he or she makes a mistake, indicate how things could have been down differently, use visual strategies.
  7. Personal and self-care
  8. Encourage the child or young person to try, offer rewards, motivators and reinforcers, sometimes the child or young person is resistant as he is she is anxious.

Empowerment comes from whilst remembering when introducing culturally and contextually appropriate strategies the child or young person’s cognitive ability, age, stage of development.

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