Life is full of emotions. We can’t help but feel angry, sad, and anxious at times. However, learning to handle our emotions is an important skill that can be difficult for a child with autism to learn.
Here are some ways to help your child on the spectrum understand and respond to their feelings and emotions.
Identify Your Feelings – Teach child on the spectrum to recognize when they have a specific feeling. Whether that feeling is happy, sad, or angry the first step in coping with a feeling is identifying it. Help your child with autism by discussing emotions when they occur. It is also recommended that you role play through specific emotions so that your child knows how to react when they surface.
Cope with Intense Feelings– Help your child on the spectrum cope with intense feelings by creating coping strategies. Have a quiet place for your child to take a break when they get angry or feel sad. Give your child with autism the proper tools, and teach him/her how, and when to use them. These tools help release energy in a positive way. Encourage your child to use words or write about their feelings. Establish a phrase that your child can use to remove themselves from stressful or upsetting situations.
Encourage Your Child to Recognize Other People’s Feelings – Learning to empathize with other people and respond appropriately to another person’s feelings, is an important skill for building relationships. Show your child pictures, drawings or role play situations to discuss the words, body language, and experiences that indicate how a person is feeling. Read stories where characters experience events that are happy, sad, surprising, or frustrating. Discuss why the characters felt the way they did and what they said or did to indicate their feelings.
Respond to Other People’s Feelings – Not only is it important for your child on the spectrum to identify other people’s feelings, it is also important for them to learn how to respond when someone is angry, sad, or excited. Teach your child on the spectrum the appropriate ways to respond through role play and reviewing past events. Discuss how different people feel, how their body language and words show their feelings, and the best response for the situation.
Children with autism often struggle not only with understanding their feelings, but also relating to other people’s feelings. These skills are critical for personal well-being and building relationships.