Emotions are odd things.
Everyone experiences them, yet they can present differently based on the person, the time of day, or even how hungry they are.
This variation is easy for adults to understand but can be harder for children, especially ones that have autism spectrum disorder or ASD. As a parent of a child who has ASD, you may worry that your child will never fully master the skill of emotional recognition but don’t worry; there are some tips and tools that can help.
With that in mind, how can you help your child with ASD learn to manage and express their emotions better? Here are some top tips to consider.
Establish a Structured Routine
Children who have autism throve a structured routine. So, help to create one at home and at school, so they can learn what to anticipate next. Why is this important? Because being able to predict the next step will help them with emotional regulation, as they will not feel stressed or anxious.
If you need help putting together a routine for a child with ASD, search for a reputable autism app to help you.
Teach Emotional Awareness
Emotional awareness is a vital tool that children have to learn, but it can be harder for children with ASD to master.
There are emotion flashcards that you can use, as well as show them facial expressions on yourself, to teach them how to spot emotions. Also, aim to label the emotions so they do not become confused about what they are feeling or experiencing.
Use Visual Supports
There are tonnes of tools that you can use to help your child with ASD to identify, manage and express their emotions.
Have you ever seen an emotion thermometer? Or a visual story? This will help them to feel more connected to themselves, as well as associate other people’s facial cues with emotions, which can be tricky for children who have ASD.
Or, if they love movies, you can combine this with a story such as Inside Out, a great film, with a great message, with emotions that are color coded for easy identification.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Any parent who has a child with autism will be aware that when it comes to emotions, kids with autism often experience them at a heightened level.
This is never good when the emotions being felt are powerful, like sadness, anger, or anxiety. So, it is a good idea to teach them relaxation techniques. Try to teach them to listen to calming music when they are overwhelmed or to try some deep breathing exercises. Why not practice them yourself? That way, they will be more inclined to try them when they feel emotionally overwhelmed.
Encourage Social Skills Development
When a child has autism and struggles with reading social cues, it is easy for parents to jump in and take over.
However, this only really works when the child is very young, and, long term, it can hinder their ability to learn social skills. This is even the case if you have children that don’t have autism!
So, if you are able to get your child to engage in social groups away from home which are friendly and welcoming to children who have ASD, chances are that they will make a few friends, and you will take some pride in watching their social skills develop.