Conceptualizing Poor Er In Asd
One possible explanation for inadequate ER in ASD is the co-occurrence of a psychiatric disorder that accounts for the deficit. Alternatively, poor ER may be intrinsic to ASD. It could also be that specific psychiatric disorders and ER deficits in ASD share clinical or neurobiological features in common, making it difficult to disentangle the source of the behavioral disturbance.
Considerations For Future Research
Each paper in this special issue provides promising avenues for further research on topics related to ER and emotional distress in ASD. What is perhaps most innovative about this body of work is the application of the various methodological tools that are now available to questions about emotion in ASD. ASD research has historically been focused on language, social processing, behavior, and cognition, while largely overlooking the emotional domain. Greater emphasis on ER and related constructs in ASD research is an important advancement for our field with broad potential impact ranging from insight into ASDs etiology to intervention development .
This notion implies that even if emotion dysregulation is accepted as a core feature of ASD, it is not always present in ASD. Importantly, articles in this special issue clearly demonstrate how individual differences related to emotion processing are associated with variability in cognition, social processing, behavior, and brain function. This argues for assessment of emotional functioning in studies where emotion is not the central focus. Whereas most ASD studies include a measure of ASD symptom severity or match groups on prominent characteristics such as intelligence, emotional presentation and psychiatric symptoms are not commonly considered. It is possible, or even likely, that the emotional presentation of specific samples could explain some of the inconsistent findings across ASD studies.
Fact #: Emotional Regulation Is A Teachable Skill
As we noted in our blog post, What We Can Learn About Autism and Emotional Regulation from Temple Grandin,
is the skill of managing feelings so that they dont reach overwhelming levels and interfere with learning and development. Many people on the spectrum need support as they struggle to manage their emotions and mitigate their anxiety.
So, if your child struggles with this, dont assume that he lacks the capacity to master his emotions or that youve somehow failed as a parent. Instead, enlist the support of trained ABA clinicians, teachers, and other professionals, who can jump-start your childs learning process.
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Fact #: Labeling Emotional States Is A Key Piece Of The Self
Its unrealistic to expect your child to communicate his emotions if he doesnt how to label them in the first place. With the help of an ABA clinician, you might use picture cards or an emotions chart to teach your child to identify various emotional states.
It helps to tie these lessons to your childs current interests. For example, if your child loves the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, use Happy and Grumpy as part of the lesson.
Even if youre on the go and pressed for time, you can still practice labeling emotions with your child. Check out our blog post 3 Emotional Regulation Skills That You Can Practice Anywhere for specific tips.
Emotional Regulation In Asd
Psychologist CarlaMezefsky, PhD dives into the intricate relationship between emotional regulation and autism to highlight current research findings as well as gaps in understanding and treatment applications. She outlines her collaborative research focused on the timeline and physiological parameters associated with ER to provide contemporary intervention and self-regulatory methods.
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Emotional Dysregulation May Run Deeper In Asd Than Previously Believed
Researchers are increasingly coming to view emotional dysregulation not as simply an associated aspect of the core ASD deficits, but rather as a fundamental element of the disorder itself. In a 2015 study conducted at the University of North Carolina, scientists examined 15 control subjects and 15 individuals with ASD while observing their brain function through an MRI scanner.
For the individuals with ASD, activity in the prefrontal cortex, where emotions are regulated, was markedly diminished during emotional reactions. This suggests that emotional dysregulation is an integral biological outcome from ASD and not simply a byproduct of communication, social function, or other core autism symptoms. Moreover, the lack of prefrontal cortex activity was correlated to the severity of the individuals ASD symptoms low-functioning patients had even less ability to regulate their emotions.
What Is Emotional Self
Emotional self-regulation is the ability to adapt behavior when engaged in situations that might provoke emotions such as stress, anxiety, annoyance and frustration. A person with strong emotional regulation skills can:
- Notice when they become emotionally charged.
- Consider the consequences of their response.
- Engage in activities that move them toward their goal, even if they are feeling negative emotions.
Alternatively, a person who lacks emotional self-regulation may:
- Overreact to situations when compared to same-age peers.
- Experience negative emotions for a longer amount of time than same-age peers.
- Have a short temper and engage in emotional outbursts.
- Have mood swings.
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Explain And Demonstrate Better Coping
Using role-play, you can identify strategies your child can use in different scenarios as a way of explaining how to avoid getting “very upset,” by using coping strategies when they notice they are approaching that first feeling of being “a little upset.” With practice, the child can learn to self-identify the coping strategy that is more useful in each scenario.
Understanding And Accepting Emotions: Autistic Children And Teenagers
If your autistic child understands why they feel the way they do, it can help them accept their emotions.
You can help your child understand why they feel the way they do . For example, you could draw a picture of a dog with a child. Then you could say, If a dog jumps up at you and you think its going to bite, youll feel scared. But if you think what a fun, playful dog it is, you might feel excited instead.
Or you could use comic strip conversations showing characters with various facial expressions and thought bubbles to help your child link emotions with thoughts and behaviour. For example, you could draw stick figures of your child and a friend to illustrate a conversation. Use different colours to show what theyre thinking, saying and feeling.
As part of understanding emotions, its important for your child to know that everyone experiences a range of emotions. For example, you could say, Its normal to feel all sorts of things, like happy, sad, excited, jealous. Sometimes feelings are big and sometimes theyre small. All these feelings are OK. It might also help to talk about how big feelings will pass with time.
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Emotional Regulation: Tips For Autistic Teens
The videos and tip sheet provide valuable insight into the lived experience and feelings of young autistic people, as well as practical strategies young people can use to build their emotional regulation skills. These resources would be useful for autistic students, teachers, and parents.
Funded by the Department of Education and Training Victoria, these resources were created with input from autistic people, an occupational therapist and education professionals.
Use An Emotions Chart
Using a visual aid, such as an emotions chart featuring happy, sad, angry and tired faces can help your child identify their feelings at any given time. Use these discussion opportunities to highlight appropriate reactions to specific situations. Acknowledge that regulating our emotions is hard, but there are strategies that can help.
As the child starts to build confidence, gradually increase the number of emotions on the display. It is also useful to label emotions in a range of other contexts, such as when reading a picture book and pointing to a character to confirm: Tom is smiling. Hes happy.
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It Starts With You: Co
One of the most powerful tools for calming a child is a calm adult. How can you be that cool calm collected adult when faced with a distressed child?
- We need to be the swan
- Calm communication slow – low – low
- Our own emotional regulation matters, how can we help ourselves?
- We can be emotional regulation role models to children when we regulate aloud
- Sometimes well get it wrong, thats okay so long as we apologise and learn from it
Teach The Child To Assign Emotional Levels To Certain Situations
The person working with the child can prompt them in a number of ways. Ask the child to write down different situations that make them feel specific emotional levels. Another option is to present a scenario and ask the child to identify how that situation would make them feel. For example, ask the child how she would feel if she wasnt allowed to wear her favorite shirt and instruct her to fill in the blank space next to the corresponding emotion.
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Stanford Researchers Investigate The Emotional Side Of Autism
Two Stanford psychologists have found that the emotional difficulties faced by many individuals with autism come from a lack of effective emotion regulation strategies. In an ongoing collaboration with the Stanford Autism Center, the researchers are now planning to help people with autism learn to cope better.
The diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association defines autism in what seems to be a fairly comprehensive way: social impairment, difficulties with communication, repetitive behavior and restricted interests the so-called “core symptoms” of the autism spectrum disorders.
But autism is a complex condition, and even a description as official and thorough as this one may leave out something important.
Psychology postdoctoral scholar Andrea Samson’s research shows that adults with autism spectrum disorders report greater levels of negative emotion in general.
“If you talk to parents of children with autism, they’ll say all these characteristics are important,” said Stanford psychology Professor James Gross. “But what’s not featured in the diagnostic manual is the extreme difficulty many kids with autism have with emotion.”
From a caretaker’s perspective, sudden emotional outbursts can be one of the single most disruptive aspects of the disease. Still, emotion regulation in autism has attracted relatively little research.
How To Improve Emotional Self
Does your child get distracted easily and need to be repeatedly reminded to complete a simple task? Does their room look like its been hit by a tornado and they are constantly misplacing personal items? Do they have emotional outbursts when plans suddenly change?
For parents, many of these behaviors may seem familiar. But many typically developing children are able to improve their self-management skills, or executive functions, as they grow older and take on more responsibility. Some, including children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder , attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, traumatic brain injury and other learning disabilities, have a harder time and may face executive function deficits.
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Make A Visual Aid To Chart Emotions
Using now-common emojis, you can create a visual aid that shows the different levels of emotions that a child may feel as their emotions rise from contentment to anger. The child can pick their own labels and name the feelings they associate with each emotion. In a chartperhaps on a dry-erase board or any board with sticky notesyou can put pictures of the emotions in one column and in the second column, labeled, “this is how I feel when,” the child can fill in examples that describe that situation.
Managing Emotions: Autistic Children And Teenagers
Strong emotions can be overwhelming for autistic children and teenagers. They often need help to manage strong emotions and calm down from them. But they can learn techniques to manage these emotions.
Below are some ideas and strategies to help autistic children and teenagers with managing strong emotions. As you use these strategies with your child, remember that learning to manage strong emotions takes practice. Its good for your child to practise when theyre calm. This will make it easier for your child to remember and use the strategies when theyre feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Calming down steps You can help autistic children and teenagers calm down from strong emotions using a 5-step process:
This process is explained in more detail in our articles on helping children calm down and helping teenagers calm down. You can adapt the strategies in these articles for your autistic child.
Relaxation exercises Your child could try some relaxation exercises to see what works for them. For example, they could count to 10, take 5 deep breaths, or think about something that makes them happy and calm.
They could also try using their fingers to focus on their breathing. Using a finger, your child slowly traces around their hand, breathing in when they trace up to the top of a finger and breathing out when they trace back down a finger. Repeat for all 10 fingers.
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Six Steps To Help Children With Autism Manage Their Emotions
Emotion Dysregulation is the inability to know how to innately manage the intensity and duration of negative emotions like fear, sadness, or anger. This is a particular challenge for those who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and face a situation that brings about strong negative emotions.
Studies have shown that there are long term physical, emotional, and behavioral effects from repeatedly having prolonged negative emotions. Emotion dysregulation is not considered a core deficit in ASD however, both parents and clinicians have long emphasized the important role it plays in their negative emotional responses to situations, according to a study by Stanford University. These negative responses take the form of irritability, poor anger control, temper tantrums, self-injurious behavior, aggression, and mood dysregulation. The study found that the severity of core features of ASDincluding deficits in social and communication functioning, repetitive behaviors, and sensory abnormalitiesis significantly related to emotional dysregulation.
So here are some steps to help your child with ASD learn how to manage emotions, but it is important to note that your child needs to be able to identify and label emotions. Take these steps one at a time, with an understanding and practice in each before moving on to the next.
Talk To The Child About What Appropriate Reactions Should Be To Different Scenarios
Use the scenarios in the emotional levels chart to identify what should be treated as a big deal and what should be brushed off. For example, talk to the child about how not being able to wear your favorite shirt should make you a little upset, rather than very upset.
Thinking of something that makes the learner happy
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How Can Others Offer Support When They Witness These Behaviors
Often, non-autistic people have misconceptions about self-soothing behaviors that cause a lack of real community understanding and acceptance. They may expect it to look like jumping up and down, stimming, flapping, pacing or fidgeting, but it could be going mute, going for a run or sitting in a quiet place.
Half of the challenge of emotional regulation as an autistic person is finding a place to be able to do it. Often, those behaviors can draw attention, questions, comments and a lot of misunderstanding. Community members can be supportive by just offering understanding and acceptance in that moment. Dont ask a lot of questions and make comments, and just allow someone to self-soothe in the way that they feel the most comfortable.
Discuss Appropriate Emotions Using Examples
Once you and your child have lived through some examples on the chart you can discuss examples of ways to calmly identify how not to let emotions elevate into the next higher level of anger or anxiety. For example, if your child can’t read his favorite book one night and it makes him extremely upset, you could point out that while that is a disappointing fact, the more appropriate perspective in that scenario would be in the “slightly upset” row instead of the intensely angry category and use another example of what would instead fall in the “intensely angry” row as comparison. As the old adage reminds us about putting things in perspective: “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
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How Can Autistic Adults Learn To Cope With Their Emotions In Stressful Situations
Autism Speaks Roadmap to Self-Empowerment for Autistic Adults takes a deep dive into sensory issues and coping mechanisms. The Roadmap has a really great tool to help you understand what drains your battery, what recharges your battery and how to develop a plan for when you need to take a step back to recharge.
How Can Parents And Caregivers Teach Their Autistic Children To Better Regulate Their Emotions
Before being able to self-regulate, its important that theres some baseline understanding of emotions. The child should not only be able to identify emotions, but also identify what the emotion looks and feels like. For example, what makes a person happy? What makes them anxious?
Putting the identification first helps create the building blocks of emotional self-awareness, making it easier to understand how to manage over-stimulation or under-stimulation in the environment. If youre not sure where to begin with teaching your loved one to identify and understand their emotions, ask your care team, your childs teacher or their therapist for guidance.
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How To Help A Child With Autism With Emotional Self
By Sam Keller
The stressors of a typical school day are only compounded for students with autism spectrum disorder . They often struggle with emotional self-regulation, or the ability to moderate feelings in situations that provoke intense reactions.
Traversing a crowded lunchroom can flood heightened senses, and difficulty understanding social dynamics during group projects can spark panic. To ease potential anxiety in school situations, parents can work with children with ASD at home to further develop their emotional regulation skills.
Emotional regulation is one component of executive functioning, which also includes behavioral management skills such as planning, attention, and flexibility . While many people might consider these innate brain functions, psychologists stress that these executive functions involve behavior, and those with deficits can improve with learned or modified behaviors.
Emotional regulation, in particular, involves the ability to recognize a felt emotional state, evaluate the repercussions of reacting, and make a conscious choice to move toward a goal even with accompanying negative emotions. This is troublesome for students with ASD, who can have larger emotional reactions to stimuli and increased difficulty shaking off negative feelings.
The parent can then teach the child coping mechanismssuch as taking some time alone, asking for help, or initiating deep breathing to use when this type of situation arises to calm emotions.