Emotional Regulation

Yesterday's blog post sparked a hot debate on the Parenting Autism Facebook page about tantrums and melt-downs and the fact I wrote about Liam (typical son), not Tristan (son with autism).  I would like to thank Missy, Angela, Jen, Jill, Iris, Rachel, Brenda, Kim, Libby, and Grace for a great debate, woo-hoo!  I love it.

Well, now let's get down and dirty and talk about Emotional Regulation and how individuals on the spectrum need more instruction and support so their brains get more practice with positive responses than negative ones. 

**Disclaimer:  I am not on the autism spectrum, I am just using my personal experience.  For example when I was in my tender years just out of college I would have panic attacks about not having enough money for rent or food.  This pattern went on every month for years until my brain developed (scientists now know the brain is still developing well in your twenties) a positive stress-memory experience.  For example, I have paid my rent and food for the last four years I can do this, nothing bad will happen to me.

And what promising Emotional Regulation research is showing is that first young children with ASD are not always offered the tools, the practice, and the time to begin to regulate their emotions in a positive experience.  Remember, these kids often have to be taught the innate skills that typically developing children pick-up without training.  Then as the child with ASD moves into adolescences and adulthood they want to process emotional experiences with peers, not their parents or adult support worker.  This can be a challenge for a person who has little or no control over his emotions which can lead to a negative experience.

So, I challenge you look at your child's meltdowns or tantrums through a different lens, how can I make this experience positive and worth remembering so you can build one brick at time toward self regulation of emotions.  Think of all the possibilities!

Footnote:  Click her for a great article about Emotional Regulation by Dr. Lynda Geller.

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