Autism and Preserving Self-Esteem In Middle School

We know that confident, happy people are more available for learning, more likely to be employed and more likely to find meaningful relationships. How can we help more young people preserve their self-esteem and find happiness during their middle and high school years? Young people with an autism diagnosis are particularly at risk for depression as adults, and many of them cite their awful treatment in middle and high school as the beginning of their depression.

The school setting is strange. Socially and academically speaking, it’s basically unreplicated in the adult world. Do we ever sit quietly in a room with 25 age-peers and wait for directions? Do we ask to use the bathroom or raise our hands to speak? Rarely. Are we ever forced to eat in large loud bright spaces without any protection from people who feel entitled to bully us? I think we need to reconsider the importance of teaching school-specific behaviors and refocus on preserving self-concept for young people with autism.

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