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Managing Emotions

Managing Emotions

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.

Increase Your Child’s Communication Skills

The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills to have, and one of the skills that most of us take for granted. With the proper communication and language skills we are able to connect with others, build relationships, share ideas and let others know what you want and how you feel.

For children diagnosed with autism, communication skills are formed differently than for most others. Many seem distracted and first words tend to be delayed. Depending on the verbal ability of the child, there are a variety of ways to help increase communication and language skills. Here are several ways to help your child with autism increase language and communication skills:

  1. Find the time to communicate with your child – Don’t allow electronics, games and television to occupy a majority of your child’s time. Spend time with them, ask them about their day, listen to them when they talk to you and ask questions, read books to them and (if they are able to read), let them read to you. All of these opportunities to communicate will help increase your child’s language and communication skills.
  2. Be supportive of your child – Always make your child feel comfortable and confident. Encourage them to use their words and try not to be too critical of their mistakes. Use situations where they make mistakes as a learning experience. Help them understand what they are doing wrong in a very calm and helpful way. Try your best not to be judgmental or condescending as this will have a tendency to hurt your child’s feelings and push them to regress instead of advance their skills.
  3. Be a Role Model to your child – Your child learns from examples. Make sure that when your child is around you, you speak to them and others in complete sentences, correct grammar, and articulate your words clearly. When children constantly hear the proper use of words and sentences they learn how they should sound when they speak.
  4. Use Reinforcers – Find and create situations that promote language in the home. Use favorite items, toys, games, even food, to motivate your child to use their words properly. Make sure these items are only available when working with your child on language and communication building skills.
  5. Provide your child with choices – Use choices as a way to get your child to communicate with you. By giving them a choice of what they want to do, or what items they want to have, you open up the lines of communication and give them the opportunity to speak to you. By allowing them to choose between two things they like, you are also able to start a conversation about why they selected one item over the other.
  6. Read stories to your child – This is an excellent way to incorporate language into a fun activity. Take this time to ask your child about the pictures in the book you are reading. Ask them about their favorite character and what they like best about the story. It is also a great idea to review the story once you have completed reading it. Having your child tell you about what you just read is a great way to finish a language and communication activity.
  7. Non-Verbal Children – For parents of children who are non-verbal, try not to pay attention to your child when he/she points and grunts, or tantrums and be sure to explain that you don’t understand what they want even when you do, so that they are more motivated to try using their words. Also remember to model an appropriate way to say words they have trouble with, and to model the appropriate way to make requests for what they want. Little tricks like these will help most non-verbal children start communicating.

Most of all, remember to be patient with your child and do your best to set a good example for them by communicating clearly and effectively. When your child sees that he/she can communicate their wants/needs effectively, it will give them added confidence that will help them continue to strive to improve their language development.

Building Bonds That Last

Welcome to 2020! It’s not just a brand new year, it’s a brand new decade. We are all looking to better ourselves and build long lasting relationships. Although making new friends can be hard for many of us, it can especially be hard on a child with autism.

Children with autism have a complex nature that is hard for most professionals, parents and teachers to understand, so imagine how hard it is for them to understand the proper way to interact with other children in ways that would create strong bonds.

Due to lack of awareness, teasing and bullying have become major problems at school and affect many children who have been diagnosed with autism. It is important to help your child learn the best ways to react to unkind words and criticism; and to know the difference between constructive criticism, teasing, bullying and play. Remember to keep your child’s temperament, age, and level of communication in mind when working on strategies that can help them through difficult interactions.

Begin by teaching your child self-control to help even out their temperament. Teach them the importance of keeping their cool and reading situations properly. The first thing to focus on is the prevention of lashing out physically when confronted with a difficult situation. It is important for them to learn how to use their words and to control their energy level.

Teaching your children that it is important to take time to think about a response and to assess their situation is a valuable lesson and will allow them to fully process the situation. Work with your child on how to differentiate possible situations and how to read social ques. They should ask themselves questions like: 

  1. Was the comment they heard truly provoking?
  2. Was it a joke?
  3. Are they in danger or being bullied There are many ways that social 

There are many ways that social interactions occur. Being able to read the situation properly is very important. 

Sometimes a simple “Excuse me” or “that wasn’t very nice” is a great responses to social situations that mean no harm. Telling a teacher or parent about a situation where they are getting teased or bullied before starting a fight or reacting in a temperamental way is a good way to handle a potentially more harmful situation. It is very important to understand and determine what an appropriate response to any situation would be and to discuss these responses or role play possible scenarios with your child.

Role play allows you to show your child examples of situations that may happen and practice different scenarios when your child is calm and able to process information. Social stories with visuals are also great tools to showcase different types of social interactions and how they can play out. Making a game out of your social stories can be fun as well. Create several versions of the same scenario and allow your child to pick from a list of options on how they would respond. Depending on what they pick, you can change the ending to reflect the consequences of their answers. This will show them both verbally and visually how their actions can affect how others respond. 

In the end you want to make sure that your child is well rounded, happy and safe and able to interact appropriately with others.