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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope


Maureen Bennie is a writer, mother, and creator of Autism Awareness Centre, which she started to address the gap in support, information, resources, and advocacy that is available for people struggling with autism spectrum disorders. She is able to speak on these issues due to her first-hand experiences with her two autistic children. She has continued to strive to help parents who are in similar scenarios as she herself has been in by hoping to bring about positive change to our world. On her blog, Bennie posted a piece titled, "Building Resilience - An Important Life Skill," to help parents understand the importance of resilience for a child and how they can work on building it with their own. She begins the post by defining and explaining resilience. Resilience is technically the ability to bounce back through facing adversity. It involves working through challenges in a proactive way which helps to build confidence and mastery in conquering difficulties. The ability to do this supports personal growth, mental health, and promotes positive feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Resilience is a self-replicating skill because one a person mastered a challenging situation, they will be more confident in themselves and their ability to overcome any difficulties. As the confidence grows, so does the resilience. Autistic people, specifically children, face challenges every day that can cause setbacks around feelings of confidence and self-worth. A lack of accommodations can lead to anxiety, stress, and burnout and communicating their needs can be stressful, especially when they feel as if there is not enough support in place to protect them. Without resilience, children with autism can have difficulty coping with life's challenges as well as new things and changes. They may feel the need to withdraw from social situations, but if they can build resilience early on in life, they can feel confident enough to take on new challenges, and hopefully, succeed. Bennie list some positive aspects of resilience and ways in which it can help an autistic person in her blog post. Those include: making their way through life's milestones in a positive way, build a strong self-identity, manage change or unpredictability, understand the need to practice and develop a new skill, transition more smoothly from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, among many others positives that Bennie lists. There are some factors that can hinder or make it difficult to acquire resilience and those are listed in Bennie's post as well. The first of these being, invalidation, which is what happens when a person's identity, self, safety, experience, or beliefs are questioned, or invalidated, by others. This can happen through bullying, abuse, violence, or discrimination. Validation and reassurance are important for people to be able to build confidence and forming a trusting relationship. Assuming incompetence, which happens a lot to autistic people when deciding whether they can make decisions, live independently, work, or have friendships or relationships. Assuming incompetence can become a negative and self-fulfilling prophecy that may rob an autistic person of confidence and the willingness and ability to try new things on their own.Overprotection is another negative factor that can harm the development of resilience. This is likely due to the parents or caregivers wanting to protect autistic people from facing any challenges or difficulties. This constant shielding can lead a person to lose confidence in their ability to do things; "self-doubt hinders resiliency." Negative Messages can also be harmful because they often define autistic people by their deficits rather than their strengths. They tend to be told what they can't do rather than what they can do, making it difficult for them to acquire any resilience. Past failures is another factor that can work in both ways, either a learning tool or an obstacle to gaining resilience. Negative responses to failures or mistakes by adult role models can be traumatic or cause a person to have ruminating thoughts. Failure needs to be put in a perspective that is non-judgemental and frames it as a way of life to encourage the person to try again and use this situation as a learning experience. The last hinderance to building resilience is perfectionism, which is defined as wanting to be perfect and fearing failure around a specific activity, which can provoke anxiety. This can prevent a person from ever trying the activity or completing it if they do start something due to the worry that they will not be good enough. The next section of Bennie's blog post is on building resilience and how that can be done. "Building resilience is all about practice." The best way to practice resilience is through a series of controlled challenges and adding to them in small increments. Go slowly and increase challenges through the new exercises. When a child masters one challenge, it will most likely build their confidence and strength to take on a new challenge. It can be difficult for parents to watch their children struggle with tasks and essentially, fail, but if they step in the way of them, their children cannot learn or grow. Lastly, Bennie lists a few key concepts that surround resilience and are important to coney to children. Those include: just because something seems difficult, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try, with help you can overcome any difficulty, no one masters a skill right away, they have to practice in order to learn, it's okay to ask for help when trying something new, overcoming something hard will make you feel good and will mean that you can do it in the future and it will be easier, it's okay to compete and it's to okay to not win, and if you don't get it right the first time, it's okay and you can try again. If you can instill these concepts in your child, you will be setting them up for long-term well-being by building their self-confidence and self-esteem. Resilience is a skill and it is a precious one, if you can inspire to build it early, you will be setting them up for a smoother transition into adulthood and a life of independence.

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