Autism Keys 7. Emotion

by | Autism, Life, Parenting, Psychology

While there is plenty out there about behavioral programs for those on the spectrum, I see little about emotion programs. It is evident that those on the spectrum experience extreme emotions, thus it makes sense that emotional teachings are necessary to assist them with this.

I did my honors thesis in Emotional Intelligence, and was surprised at how little people understood about emotion generally, so was determined my children would learn about them. From the earliest days I saw evidence of extreme emotion and severe mood-swings in Taz, so I always made a point of naming his emotions, calling attention to reasons why they might be stronger right now, and helping him find coping strategies for them. While naming tiredness is often met with opposition, all of my boys now recognise this in themselves, and will even admit to it occasionally. Chip is particularly tetchy if he’s hungry, while Dale is if he’s thirsty, so I often suggest these basic needs need attention for them to feel better. I am also open about my own tiredness, hunger or thirst.

Bringing attention to basic needs can help them regulate themselves better, which can ease emotion intensity. Basic needs not only include hunger, thirst and tiredness, but also comfort (feeling too hot or cold), feeling safe (which is an issue anxious children deal with all to regularly), and even social and support needs. Remembering to meet these needs can help decrease the intensity and stabilise their emotions. For example: if your child is particularly prone to emotional outbursts when tired, find ways to improve their sleep. If they are lacking in social interactions, join some new activities to help acclimatise them (activities they show signs of enjoying a lot), and practice strategies to deal with issues. If they suffer from anxiety, create some strategies and changes to improve that. Some children can benefit from yoga. If you are working with a good baseline for how they feel, coping emotionally will be easier.

It is important to remember as a parent that emotional outbursts don’t always have a core reason or cause. No matter how carefully you navigate the day for them, your child is likely to have times where their emotions are out of control, and it’s not your fault. Think about why you may lose your temper: it’s usually a combination of things that cause the current situation to be so overwhelming that you don’t know what to do. You may have financial pressures, work issues or health problems. To your child, the lack of toast for breakfast can simply send them over the edge because it’s part of all the other stuff they’re struggling with. Your human inability to cope sometimes can also provide a teaching experience for your child. Not only will they be able to see that mum can feel overwhelmed too, but they can learn how you deal with it when you are. I tell my children if I’m feeling sad, if I’m starting to feel cross, if I think someone else is sad or tetchy. I also acknowledge their feelings and support them as much as possible.

By bringing emotional discussion into the daily lives of my children, I make it familiar, and help them know how to identify them in themselves and others. It also gives them dialogue to use when they feel emotional.

How do you name emotions in your home?

Are you honest about your own emotions with your children?



The 7 Autism Keys Program is coming soon!

Through Coloured Shattered Glass is very excited to announce that a new online support program for parents of children on the autism spectrum will be launched early in 2018.

If you would like to be one of the first to find out all the details, please register your interest here.


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Please be respectful of others at all times. We are all on different journeys.

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