self image and self esteem: improving your special needs child view of themselves

Jodi & Corey Shaw |


As parents we all know the importance of raising our children to feel good about themselves.  Life can be cruel, and the stepping stones along the way on our path to adulthood even crueler.  

Remember those kids that wouldn't play with you?  Those girls who talked behind your back?  The boys who called you names?  Looking in the mirror at least once in your life and hating your image or your clothes?  

As parents it's our job to make it better.  As parents of kids with special needs, the job is all that much more harder.

"Mom I have Asperger's and Cerebral Palsy?  Why?"


Kids with special needs are going to have questions and  many times there can be a negative element surrounding how they feel about themselves when so much focus is put on their disability and not their abilities.  There needs to be a balance on what our kids can do "NOT" what they can't, and at times that can be  hard when throughout their growth that is all we hear.

"They are not thriving. They are not growing properly. They are behind in school. Their disability is getting in the way of their social development. They don't think like other kids. They don't act like other kids..."and so forth.

These are the messages that not only parents hear and feel towards their children, but the messages can sometimes get crossed over to the child.

Having disabilities or special needs is nothing to be ashamed of.  Yet many parents feel that way once a diagnosis for their child is reached. They sometimes even feel bad inside, thinking maybe there was something they could have done to prevent it. Those are all normal feelings.  Parents must learn to get past it though so that their child can grow and thrive normally with good feelings about themselves both inwardly and outwardly shining through.

I remember when Trace was first diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  I heard the words. They registered as the neruolgist explained why and how she felt  he was recovering from a brain injury.  My immediate reaction was guilt. I felt as though somehow I could have prevented it.  I mean it was after all my responsiblity to care for him while he was growing inside of me. Wasn't it?


But soon after my negative feelings changed and suddenly I felt relieved. We had answers finally, and I had to learn to let go of my own selfish feelings and focus on how I was going treat my son no differently than my other sons who did not have special needs.  

I wanted there to be a "no quit" attitude which we all had to embrace, and with each milestone although celebrated. I had to teach not only myself but everyone else around me that disability did not equal NO ABILITY.

So how as parents can we help our children with disabilities or special needs feel good about themselves?

Well there are many things we can do to improve our child's self esteem, whether they have a disability or not.  Following these guidelines or steps will go a long way to increase a child's inner feelings of self image.

Just like kids with "NO" disabilities or special needs, kids with disabilities and special needs do not fall into any one category.

Not all kids are the same.

We are born individuals and should not be put into categories. Not all kids act the same or react the same. That's why I prefer to say "special abilities" and teach my son to love himself with all the possibilities in his future set out how he determines them to be.

Strong, caring, kind, and loving. That's Trace. His disabilities do not define him, they refine him.  

I want my son to know that he's special, to everyone he meets and knows and loves and loves him back because of who he is not what he can or can't do.

How do you help your child with special needs improve their self-esteem? What barriers or boundaries have you had to deal with?  

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