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How to help autistic children learn emotion regulation

One of the common challenges that autistic children face is difficulty regulating emotions. Emotion regulation refers to the ability to manage and express emotions in a socially acceptable manner. When autistic children have trouble regulating their emotions, it can lead to meltdowns, aggression, and difficulty coping with everyday situations. So how can adults support autistic children in developing emotion regulation skills?

How to help autistic children learn emotion regulation

Identify and label emotions

Autistic children may have difficulty identifying and understanding emotions. It is essential to help children to recognise different emotions and label them accurately. Here are some ways to help autistic children identify and label emotions:

  1. Use pictures or books to help them learn about emotions. You can also use visual aids like emotion charts or emotion thermometers to help them understand and communicate their feelings.
  2. Talk about your own emotions to help your child understand and label their feelings. For example, you might say, “I’m feeling happy today because I had a great workout this morning.”
  3. Role-playing is an excellent way to help children to recognise and express emotions. You can act out different scenarios and ask your child to identify the emotions involved.
  4. Autistic children often respond well to visual aids, such as picture books or emotion charts. These tools can help children learn to recognise facial expressions and associate them with emotions.
  5. Use games such as QuadEmo to help them learn about emotions. QuadEmo can help your child learn what emotions look like, how they make their bodies feel and how to regulate them in a fun and engaging way. You can get a FREE trial to try it with your child.

Create a calming environment 

Autistic children are prone to sensory overload, leading to heightened emotional responses. This is particularly easy in a world full of sources of noise.  By creating a calming environment, adults can help reduce sensory overload and promote a sense of calm. Here are some tips for creating a calming environment:

  1. Limit sensory input: Autistic children may be sensitive to noise, light, touch, and other sensory stimuli. Reduce sensory overload by limiting exposure to these stimuli. You can do this by using noise-cancelling headphones, dimming the lights, or reducing clutter in the environment.
  2. Use calming colours: Certain colours can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Use calming colours like blue, green, or lavender in the environment to promote relaxation.
  3. Provide a quiet space: Create a designated quiet space where your child can go to relax and decompress. This space should be free from distractions and sensory input. You can include items like a soft rug, a comfortable chair, and calming artwork to create a peaceful environment.
  4. Do a calm activity: Drawing, colouring and reading are examples of calming activities your child can do alone or you could do it together. These activities can provide your child with a sense of calm and allow them to express their feelings.
  5. Introduce Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be a helpful tool for promoting relaxation. Use essential oils like lavender, chamomile, or bergamot in a diffuser to create a calming scent in the environment.
  6. Use weighted objects: Weighted objects like blankets, lap pads, or stuffed animals can provide a sense of comfort and security. These objects can also help regulate the nervous system by providing deep pressure input. 
  7. Incorporate nature: Exposure to nature can have a calming effect on the nervous system. Consider incorporating natural elements like plants, rocks, or shells in the environment to create a sense of calm.
  8. Experiment with different strategies to see what works best for your child. Every child is unique and may respond differently to different environmental stimuli. With time and consistency, you can create a peaceful and supportive environment for your child to thrive.

If you found these tips helpful to your child, then wait for Part 2 where we introduce you to more techniques that will help your autistic child understand and regulate their emotions.

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