How to Improve the Self Esteem of Your Special Needs Child

It can be difficult raising a child with special needs. Kids with special needs often tend to feel different from other children. And although all kids experience bullying and teasing.

Kids with disabilities are often targeted, which makes them feel bad, out of place and they can develop feelings about themselves that are negative. It is our job as parents to help our children feel great both inside and out.

Kids with special needs are going to have questions. Many times negative elements are attached to the answers we give. How they feel about themselves afterward plays a big role. It depends on how much emphasis we as parent’s put on their disabilities.

There needs to be a balance on what is acceptable forms of behavior which at times can be hard when we don’t know what part of their behavior is caused by their disability and what part is normal child growth.


“They are not thriving, growing properly or might be behind in school. Their disability is getting in the way of their social development, and they don’t think or act as other children do

These types of messages are commonly heard amongst parents with children who have special needs. The message, however, can get lost on the child.

I have been guilty on more than one occasion for telling my son with mild cerebral palsy he can’t do something because I think his legs won’t let him.

This is like me saying he isn’t good enough to even try. So be careful how you choose your words when explaining limitation you feel your child needs to understand.

There is no shame in having a child with disabilities. Yet, many parents feel this way once a diagnosis is presented. They feel a sense of guilt and even worse inside, thinking there was something they could have done for their child to be normal. But what is normal?

I went through pounds and pounds of guilt until I made myself sick.

As a parent, I had to learn to get past this. All children including those with special needs will grow and thrive at their own pace, which also means they need to feel good about themselves both inwardly and outwardly.

I remember the moment my son’s diagnosis came in. The neurologist explained he was recovering from a brain injury from his birth. My immediate reaction was guilt. I felt as if somehow I was responsible. I could have prevented it. After all, it was me who had the job of protecting him while growing inside of me. Wasn’t it?

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As a parent, you need to learn to let go of your own selfish feelings and focus on the way your child feels about themselves. I decided I wasn’t going to treat my son any different.

I knew he would have limitations but that wasn’t going to stop me from pushing or supporting him in all walks of manner with which the way he wanted to live his life.

We have a ‘no quit’ attitude in our home, and we embrace every milestone. Each journey is celebrated because his disabilities do not define him but are rather challenges he must face.

So how can parent’s help their child with special needs improve their self-esteem? Be supportive and caring and understanding.

5 thoughts on “How to Improve the Self Esteem of Your Special Needs Child”

  1. Candice Wilkinson

    I loved this post. It hit home for me. I am huge on self image and self esteem. I relised that how I looked at my daughters condition is how she will. (The same way teenage girls self/body imiage can reflect their moms.) I also had a great doctor who drilled into my head "that she has a brain injury" over all. Everything else is symptoms. So I see my daughter as a suvivor, (like someone who got the same injury as from a stroke or not wearing a helmet,) and will raise her as one. Her cerebal pasly affects all four limbs, espicially her right arm and left leg. At first people refered to it as her bad leg or hand or arm. I corrected them saying that it's her other limbs. We don't want her to get a complex with those limbs. So people now refere to her limbs as right hand, or ask her to move the other leg. Also I try not to label her in my blog. I will talk about how CP affects our lifes BUT I try very hard not to label her as a special needs person. (It slips once a while but heck I am human) Even under Lilly's Page or Joys, giggles and tears page I don't label her. I describe who she is as a person and how the injury happened BUT I don't use the words Dissablilty, Special needs, sezuire disorder, Bilaterial Saspastic Cerebal Palsy. One day she may read the words I type and it might impact how she see's her self. I am her biggest influnce, how she deals with boundries and barriers will reflect the path I paved for her. If I don't build myself imiage up as a mother and deal with boundries and barriers in a postive way. How can I expect Lilly to do the same in the future? It's things like responding to negative comments in public she will soak in. Or the additude we have toward health proffesional that she will be watching. The littlest things will mold herself imaige. I am constantly reminding my hubby of this and slowly he is learning to…Because the fathers additude also matter to. He's gone from dreading hospital visits to being the fun playful father at hospital visits. Now I will get off my soap box

    1. Thanks so much for posting this Candice. I think it's something we all work on and need to learn as parents. I often refer to Trace's disabilities as special abilities, but I have referred to CP as an entity not who he is. I think that is important. I also think your daughter is extremely lucky to have you loving her, such a strong mom to love and show her the way to love herself (all the good and bad) truly amazing. Trace's CP affects his right leg and sometimes his hand. Instead of saying oh his CP is affecting him. We say ooops Trace has wobbly bits right now and he laughs. I want him to realize that even though he has things that affect him – we all do and they make up the strengths of who we are. It helps having a husband with a brain injury who has learned over the years to accept himself and help us all learn how to love one another better.

  2. Fortunately we have been homeschooling the kids all along (other than a bit of preschool) and have been part of some wonderful homeschooling communities, so my kids escaped the cruelty of "playground politics" and have never been teased or bullied for being different, in trouble with teachers, etc. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. Interestingly, it's the adults in the world (the busybodies in the checkout line, or the stranger at the playground) who have been the ones to judge my son, but he's the type of Aspie (and at the age) where their opinion doesn't really register, thankfully, and those few incidents don't seem to have negatively affected his self-esteem at all. For all his issues he's a very confident child. He's a handful, but thankfully his self-esteem appears intact. I know at some point he'll mature enough to become more aware of his challenges, but now we know where they come from I think we can support him much better.

    The blow to my daughter's esteem came from within herself. She would misunderstand a situation, or not be able to read intention in the other person, and her feelings would get very hurt. She would assume the other person hurt her feelings on purpose and this led her to avoid certain social situations and wonder why some people were "mean" to her yet treated her as a friend (how confusing must that be?). I had no idea this was going on until figuring out the Asperger's thing (all I knew is she would blow up in certain situations and/or get very defiant). I have been able to have talks with her to explain that, just like some kids have trouble with reading or playing sports, she has trouble figuring other people out. She is really interested in this information, is proud to be an Aspie, and is already benefitting from the greater understand of herself we've been able to provide. I wish I'd figured it out sooner, but she is only just turned 9 so I feel positive about the future. I so agree with you that it's important sometimes to forget the label and just see them as the Whole Person they are, warts and all ('cuz don't we all have warts? some are just more visible than others).

    1. Yes we do and I soooooooo can relate to your daughter. Trace is the same way. Blowing up and not getting jokes, or misunderstanding why people say things. He however will act out and sometimes bite and then get frustrated. I can relate to him and feel for him. It's not easy. But we take one step at a time. I think it's great what you tell your daughter about figuring people out in regards to other kids and their social issues. We all have issues or warts as you said lol.

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