Ok guys, it’s autism Tuesday, and today we are gonna talk about emotions. One of the biggest and most common characteristics among children on the spectrum, is their inability to recognize emotions. This often brings about confusion, and severe emotional outbursts. For everyone else, when we are mad or sad, or excited, we know how to regulate those emotions into proper channels. Someone with autism struggles with trying to identify what they are feeling, and why, and because of that, they often overcompensate through meltdowns.
It’s not just the meltdowns, though. Often times they have a hard time recognizing or understanding emotions of others. This makes it very difficult in social situations and when they’re trying to make friends, because their lack of empathy can come across just down right mean. My 6 year old cannot understand why calling someone a whale is mean (he loves whales, so it should be a compliment). He is also confused and doesn’t understand or recognize when someone is sad. We are constantly having to remind or explain the situation to why the person is sad.
You don’t realize just how much we use our emotions to communicate, until you have a child who struggles so much in that department. It’s hard enough when a child has a tantrum, but when they truly can’t help it because inside they are exploding with unknown emotions, it’s makes it 10x more difficult. That is why early intervention, therapies such as play therapy and behavioral therapy, and ABA are so important for these kiddos. It doesn’t stop there though, it’s crucial for the parent to continue working with their kids. Here are 10 ways you can help your child cope and understand emotions.
10 ways to help your child cope and understand emotions.
- Use a weighted blanket or weighted vest. These are great tools to use to help calm a child who may be having an outburst caused from lack of emotional regulation. The weighted feeling is almost like a hug, and the sensation helps to calm the child’s body and mind.
- Practice emotional charades. Take turns as a family practicing what each emotion would look like on someone, and take turns guessing. This is a fun way to help your child or student learn emotions.
- Encourage yoga breaths or bubble breaths when the child is starting to get overly frustrated, anxious, or excited. Yoga breathing is an amazing technique that helps to get more oxygen into the brain, which simultaneously causes the mind and body to relax. Have the child do 5 really good yoga breaths, then have them sit down.
- Carry emotion flash cards with you wherever you go. Having emotion cards is a great way for the child to visually see what the emotion looks like. These are great to have the child point to which emotion they are feeling at any given moment.
- Having your child practice phrases such as, “I feel,” or, “that makes me feel,” is one of the most important tools you can do. Encourage them to tell you or anyone how they are feeling instead of getting physical. Make sure you reward the child every time they use those phrases.
- Exercise! Having your child exercise is a great outlet for those overwhelming emotions they may be having. Plus it’s something the entire family can do together.
- Download some emotions apps. Chances are your child either has their own tablet, or has taken over yours. There are many emotion apps for kids, that help them learn what each emotion is, and what it looks like. These are great learning tools to use. There are both free ones and ones that cost money, look below for a few of my favorite.
- Find a creative outlet for the child. Weather it be art, music, writing, or dance. Let them show their emotions through creative means. There is nothing better about being able to express yourself in other ways than just words.
- When watching a movie or tv show, randomly pause on a character, and help the child guess or decide what emotion that character is feeling, and why. This can be a great thing to do at the end of the day when everyone is winding down.
- Communication is KEY. You need to communicate with your child. Help them know what they are feeling. Let the, ask as many questions as they want, and make sure they know why someone is feeling a certain way; what caused the emotion.
The inability to regulate emotions, or the inability to identify emotions, is just one of those common characteristics of autism. It affects the ability to make friends, to communicate, and to understand the world around us. Think about it this way, emotion is what drives us to make any decision. If you weren’t able to identify what emotion you are feeling, how would you decide what it is you want/need in a given moment. Imagine living in a world with no empathy. To a child with autism, there would be nothing different about that world.
Using the tools above, and combining them with a good therapy, are crucial for the child’s emotional development. Educate others, raise awareness, and help support the autism community. These kiddos deserve the best, and advocating for them is one of the best ways anyone can help.
These are a few of my favorite things.