As people having had life experiences, there are moments of life that see calm and easy while at other times it feels as though you are dangerously dangling from cliffs edge without an idea of how-or when- your will be rescued. However, for the most of use, we are able to ground ourselves- at least somewhat- to move through these phases of living. We ask for help, begin a creative project, or decide to detach from it all and skim social media sites. Whichever fits our mood, these are emotional regulations strategies we have honed over time- effective or not- to brace stillness and challenges. But what about autism? For these individuals their self-regulation emerges in ways non-autistic individuals have a hard time ‘getting’. So what’s a parent to do?
As previously discussed, we all fluctuate between a varying degree of chaos and rigidity, which we can even say motivates us, sparks creativity or specializes our interests into expertise. Generally speaking, we can see this arbitrary tipping point in those whom we spend a lot of time. Yet kids with ASD seem-from the outside- to be set off by unknown and unpredictable factors. Which often falls into one or two of these extremes for an undetermined period of time. This can include repetitive behaviors (rigidity) or constant movement (chaos), usually with little success at redirection. As parents and caregivers, how do we cultivate an internal sense towards self-regulation?
If we look at these extremes, objectively these fall into the category of exploration. Too much newness and we shut down and not enough and we perseverate on the familiar. Part of cultivating emotional regulation is finding the individuals ‘edge’ of learning that fosters innate curiosity. From expanding how one views the world, we are modeling how to problem solve, ask questions, use support and at times learn from failures. Isn’t that a similar process to your own emotional regulation? Time and practice cultivate habits-or in this case coping strategies.
Here are a few quick take aways points to keep in mind when addressing emotional regulation. Remember-it is okay to ask for support and, when you do, what a powerful model of your own emotional regulation!
· Understand the tipping point. Too much = shut down. Note enough = preservation. Experiment with the “where” to know where to begin.
· Take things slow. This is how we don’t ‘miss’ an important problem solving along the way.
· Take your time. Rushing doesn’t demonstrate the nuance of ‘how’ to do something, rather highlights the outcome-, which is not the goal.