The 5 Needs: Power | Organization for Autism Research

News & Events

We often feel powerless. Our kids can often feel powerless.

We are not; neither are they.

This month I got some help with this post. You will see what I mean….

Thankfully, we are all so different!

Yet, we are all more alike than we sometimes realize too.

Power sounds easy for some folks. We can think of people who go on “power trips” or are “control freaks,” yet this is not what we mean when we talk about Power and The 5 Needs.

Power, within the concept of The 5 Needs is all about YOUR power, personal power. What we think, believe, and practice are all forms of power. In The 5 Needs workbooks you can learn
more specifics for all ages (, search The 5 Needs).

  • Babies can demonstrate power with temper tantrums, crying, or even the cute ways they can just look at us and melt our hearts.
  • Children are taught about power by learning to make choices, taking responsibility, and in choosing what attitudes they show.
  • Teens demonstrate power in a variety of ways. And when taught the power they have, they can do remarkable things in the community and school settings.
  • As adults, we use power daily in what we do and do not do.

Unless we are aware and willing to learn to use our power, it goes to waste.

As we develop spiritually, emotionally, and physically, we can learn ways to increase our power including meditation, gaining knowledge, learning to self-regulate, learning social skills, and learning to communicate. The list goes on and on. 

 “What about our kids?”

What about those with special needs? Do they have power? Can they learn to find their own power? Yes. Absolutely! They may learn differently, but they can understand power. They can develop power and will.

  • When a child has sensory issues, we can teach power in ways to help them manage their worlds.
  • When a child has intellectual difficulties, we need to be simplistic in how we teach about their power.
  • When a child has ADD, we can teach ways to use power that will enhance their ability to learn.
  • When a child has emotional difficulties, we can teach ways power can be useful in helping them learn to self regulate.
  • When a child has physical limitations, we can teach the use of their power, so their world can become more accessible for them.

We can meet people where they are and go from there. Everyone has power.

We need to learn to identify the power we do have and nourish it.  Here are some practical ideas from friends, professional and personal, who each work with children or teens and know their stuff…. (“They” means students)

5 NeedsJane B made a good suggestion: When they have choices mixed throughout their day, they may feel more power. (Even seemingly small choices can make a big impact on a person with special needs.)

Kim Mc said: They can feel power when they are given responsibilities or charge of something. (We all need to feel needed!)

Nancy  G. added: When they have hobbies and can show their talent. (We all have some kind of gift, talent, identifying this can help us grow in to our power at times.)

I so appreciate what Doray W said: I believe children and teens find empowerment when given the opportunity to create and improvise with music and acting situations. Learning songs/roles are fun but when given the opportunity to create their own song or character, you often see a new young person. She adds: I have seen this with students with and without labels.

Let’s be creative and discover more of our power and help others too. I encourage you to get one of The 5 Needs workbooks and do it for yourself. Years ago when I was writing the workbooks, a mentor suggested I do the Kids Have Needs workbook (one for elementary students that I had just completed). I did it and have to say I was amazed at  what came up for me. There are 5 other workbooks now to pick from… Go to and pick one out to do for you, and those you work with as well. It will be helpful and fun. If you need help, email me. I also have an activity guide available; contact me for more info (

About the author: Hello, my name is Wendy Swenson. I am a mother of three grown children and a grandmother, too. One of my children came to me by way of adoption. He is currently 32 years of age and has high-functioning autism. His life has been a miracle. I will tell you more about him in time. I work full-time as a school social worker and am a licensed clinical social worker. I have also authored six books on The 5 Needs we all share in life. I earned my Masters in Social Work from Southern University at New Orleans, where I grew up. My son and I moved to Virginia in order to receive better services for him in 2001. He is working part time now and has a wonderful job coach.

You can learn more about Wendy and “The 5 Needs” at her Web site.

Related Posts

Stay Informed. Sign up for updates

    You'll receive periodic updates and articles from Organization for Autism Research.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Donate to OAR