Self-Regulation of Emotions in Autism- Tips!

Self-regulation, in the words of McClelland & Tominey (2014), “involves conscious control of ideas, feelings, and behaviors.” Children’s bodies exhibit indicators of dysregulation when they are “bouncing off the walls” or acting out in tantrums. It might be brought on by being too exhausted, excited, frustrated, stressed, or a number of other things. Young children have a constrained capacity for self-control. They first practice co-regulating with the adults in their environment before starting to learn how to control their emotions on their own. Modeling and prompting abilities that might assist a child in regaining control when they are becoming dysregulated are a part of co-regulation. Simple exercises like simulating deep breaths could be used for this (not telling the child to take deep breaths). A set of abilities and/or methods known as self-regulation can aid us in maintaining control over our feelings and actions. These techniques must be taught to children while their bodies and minds are calm and under control. To make it “easier” to utilize that skill when dysregulating, for instance, have activities where you practice deep breathing when you are calm.

Several recommendations for helping autistic people self-regulate their emotions include:

1. Use visual support

One of the finest methods for assisting kids in transitioning from co-regulation to self-regulation of emotions is visual assistance. Using visual cues to teach and promote deep breathing is one way to do this. You practice this deep breathing with them while they are calm and in a state of regulation so that they may use it more naturally when they are experiencing dysregulation. While in a controlled, quiet condition, practice a relaxing sequence several times per day. The youngster will then find it simpler to access that ability when they are starting to exhibit dysregulation.

2. Simplify language during times of dysregulation

It is more difficult for a child to access their “thinking” abilities when their body and mind are stressed and dysregulated. When speaking to children who are suffering from dysregulation, it is crucial to utilize simple language. Specify fewer instructions and talk in a lower, more relaxed tone. This aids in the co-regulation topic that was covered in earlier advice.

3. Directly teaching emotions can be beneficial

For kids with autism, being able to recognize emotions can be a challenging task. Use flashcards with line drawings or clipart images of emotions to begin teaching the fundamental emotions. Teach your child or student how to recognize, express, and classify fundamental emotions. Beginning with joyful, sad, and angry is sometimes the best course of action. You can then proceed to mimic those feelings by making faces in the mirror together. Other enjoyable activities include making faces out of playdough and sketching faces with emotions on paper or a small whiteboard. Once your student or youngster is familiar with the fundamentals of emotion, make sure to start identifying them in everyday circumstances.

  • When we are anxious, agitated, or frustrated, a youngster may sense it. In order to ensure that we are modeling deep breathing and other self-regulation techniques, the greatest thing we can do is check in with ourselves first. An agitated adult cannot calm down an agitated child. The grownups around the youngster must maintain their composure. We won’t be able to educate the child to self-regulate if we as adults are unable to do it and demonstrate it. It’s crucial to maintain your composure as an adult.
  • You need to encourage, model, and reinforce self-control techniques as an adult. Tip #4 made mention of this. In actuality, it can entail demonstrating slow, deep breathing next to the youngster without soliciting or requesting their participation. If you keep doing it, ultimately their breathing will match yours. Co-regulation can be seen in this situation. Hugs and cuddles are also examples of co-regulation when youngsters are sad, angry, or overstimulated. Keep in mind that preschoolers will require varying degrees of co-regulation as they go toward developing their own emotional self-regulation.