Teaching your child to improve their self-regulation skills helps them learn and thrive in any environment. Self-regulation is essential for all children, but it is crucial for children with autism spectrum disorder. Typically, children can improve their self-management skills, or executive functions, as they mature. However, children diagnosed with autism can find it more challenging. They might overreact to situations, experience negative emotions longer than other kids, have a short temper, display emotional outbursts, and present mood swings. Keep reading for some tips on teaching your child self-regulation skills.
Teach Your Child About Emotions
Identifying emotions can be challenging for children with autism. You can use flashcards or drawings to teach basic emotions. Encourage your child to identify, label, and sort basic emotions like happy, sad, and mad. You can also try drawing faces with different emotions on paper or making the faces using playdough. Once your child understands basic emotions, start identifying them in real situations. For example, if you see a child crying at the playground, you could say, “they feel sad.” Understanding emotions is a helpful part of learning how to self-regulate.
Model Coping Skills
As an adult, it is important to model and reinforce the self-regulatory strategies you teach your child. This may look like: taking deep breaths next to your child without asking them to participate. Their breathing will eventually sync up with yours if you keep doing it; this is an example of co-regulation. Hugging and cuddling your child when they are sad, upset, or overwhelmed are also forms of co-regulation. Label your own feelings and explain how you will handle those feelings to encourage your child to identify their emotions.
If we, as adults, cannot self-regulate and model that behavior, we won’t be able to teach the child to do so. Staying calm is also essential during the co-regulation phase. A child can tell when the adults around them are stressed, upset, and frustrated. So, the best thing to do is check in with ourselves first to ensure we are modeling the proper self-regulatory strategies. A dysregulated adult cannot calm an escalated child down.
When a child’s body and mind are dysregulated, it is harder for them to access their higher thinking skills. It is essential to simplify the language we use when talking to children experiencing dysregulation or meltdowns. Reduce the number of directions, and be sure to speak in a calm, quiet tone. This helps with co-regulation and gives your child the space to process their emotions.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.