Tips to help autistic children manage their emotions
Children with autism can be extremely emotional and may express themselves differently. They have just as many feelings as anyone else. In certain cases, they may even be more emotional than their peers and may need help in controlling their emotions.
Challenges for Kids with High Functioning Autism
Children with high functioning autism may find it difficult to manage their emotions. Lack of social, communication, and executive functioning skills can be a hindrance to the way they deal with their feelings. They may even be coping with sensory dysfunction, anxiety, or other issues that may make it impossible to manage themselves. This could cause kids with high functioning autism to become frustrated, angry, or even act out. Their behavior can seem unpleasant to those around them. For example, they may:
- Act out like much younger children
- Run away from difficult situations
- Become aggressive or self-abusive
- Overreact to a situation and may be unable to self-calm
- Find themselves unable to process logical information
- Be too upset to listen to suggestions that could help them calm down
Tips that could help
Managing emotions can be extremely challenging for autistic children and their parents. Most children on the autism spectrum may face difficulty in regulating their emotions and remain calm. They may not be able to verbalize or understand their feelings, causing them to act out. There are ways that parents and therapists can try to help these children. Here are some of them:
Remind yourself, and your child, that whenever he cries or has a meltdown, it’s caused by a feeling which will eventually pass. Let them know that the feeling isn’t permanent and they will feel better. Help your little one learn to take a few slow deep breaths when he begins to feel upset. Practice this even when he’s not upset and be a partner in the practice. Teach him that everyone gets upsets and it is just a matter of practice to learn to calm ourselves.
Show them the Way
Sometimes kids react or have meltdowns in order to learn to deal with their sensitivities and frustrations, and to modulate themselves. They find comfort and encouragement from within. You can help show them the way by teaching them how to deal with their extreme emotional reactions. There are many ways to calm or comfort ourselves over time, and most of us find our own ways to do it. Some children find it useful to be alone for a few moments, while others find it useful to sit and talk with someone, or re-direct their thoughts to another place.
Teach them even when they’re not upset
During neutral times when your child isn’t experiencing meltdowns, it may be useful to talk to him about ways to control his emotions. They can learn that their anxiety or frustration are causing them to get upset and they can get through it with some patience, or taking things one step at a time. Find out the best ways to help your child relax and calm down in difficult emotional situations.
Talk to them before a possible Meltdown
If your child has experienced meltdown in the past, you may know the triggers and causes of a meltdown that is likely to ensue. By talking to them beforehand and discussing how they may be able to avoid it this time, you might help your child in cutting it off. You can also offer a possible reward to your child for trying to do so.
When your child learns to modulate or regulate himself, the improved feeling of self-confidence can be a reward on its own.