It is best to start out by saying that there is no one quick-fix for gaining confidence. But there are a few smaller things that can be done in order to raise confidence levels in certain situations. They might not give an autistic person a huge confidence boost, but any inprovement can have a huge impact on someone’s life.
Planning: This is key, not just for confidence, but for all aspects of autism. Lack of confidence comes in a large part from being anxious and worried about what might happen; not knowing the plan, or what to do and say, or when. Everyone gets that feeling, but autistic people can get it at any time, even over something as seemingly small as going to the shop, or having a friend round to visit. A good plan helps them to see what is going to happen and when, and also what they are going to do. It might be the small details in this plan that make all the difference. Saying ” I am going to pay at a a particular till when I go shopping, and no matter what is on offer, I am going to stick to my list“ might just give someone the confidence boost they need to get out, and do the shopping.
Have a back up plan: By this point it might seem like overkill, but it is far from it. Plans can help to decrease anxiety levels, but having a plan that says for example ” Up at seven, out by eight and catch the 8:15 bus” is great – but what if the 8:15 bus is late, or does not turn up? Someone with autism may well lack the confidence to change their plans at short notice and try a new bus, but if this is planned for, and even practised beforehand, it could be a huge help.
Practice: Having a plan is key, but knowing how to put it in to practice is too. An example of this might be if someone with autism is starting college, and they want to make some friends on their first day. It might seem scary to them, but they could practice doing this; they might talk to friend or family member and run through a few things they could say. They might practice how to respond if someone talks to them, until they feel ready. Knowing they are ready, and practiced in what they are going to do can be amazing for confidence.
Think about what is good in yourself: This helps to see yourself in a more positive light, and might come in useful when it comes to talking to new people or making friends. Someone might ask their family what their good points are, and then try to keep them in mind when talking to someone new. If everyone says they are funny they might feel more confident to crack a joke when talking. Sometimes hearing good things about yourself can boost your confidence and self-esteem.
Understanding that lack of confident does not mean you can’t try: People are fond of saying things like ” If you think you can do it that’s half the job done”. This would be quite a confusing saying for an autistic person anyway, but it can make it seem like thinking positively is key to getting anywhere in life. But that’s not true. A large part of it is being willing to try things – even things that seem scary, or that you are not confident about. This does not mean thinking that you are going to fail before you start, but for people with autism often if they waited till they were fully confident and happy to try new things then they would try nothing at all! For some autistic people going out with their friends can be as scary the hundredth time as it was the first. But they do it because they want to; they are not confident about it, in fact it scares them more than almost anything else. But many autistic people still do it. Being scared and lacking in confidence might not be a good thing, but that doesnt mean failing in everything you try.
Not all of the tips here will work for everyone, and there are other confidence building tips out there that might be helpful. Every autistic person is different, but the tips here can and will work for some people. A lack of confidence can be an issue, and it can place restrictions on the lives of autistic people, but even if it can’t be wholly removed there are ways of improving confidence levels in some situations