Self Regulation Strategies…How You Can Help Your Child

September 5, 2014

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As we have discussed in the past, most Autistic children have issues with self regulation and tend to have difficulty expressing themselves.  Zak typically struggles to tell us how or what he is feeling.  And once that frustration takes over for him, it is too late.  He explodes.  He melts down.  It is heartbreaking to see because, as we sit on our neurotypical high-horses, we feel like self-control should be easy by simply expressing himself.  But that is not the case in our autistic kids (and any child or adult for that matter).  There are many things that we are constantly doing to help improve his self-regulation and emotional responses.

Here are some tips we are learning and strategies to use if you child has difficulty with self-regulation.

  1. Provide a predictable, structured routine.  This has really helped Zak over the course of time and is especially helpful in school.  Self regulation in school is very important to his success.
  2. Provide visual supports (gestures, facial expressions, photos, schedules).  Visual support is helpful for every child, not just one’s affected with ASD.  Most or autistic kids benefit from visual support materials when it comes to self regulation strategies.
  3. Offer choices to your child.  It is important to provide both verbal and nonverbal support and allows the child to feel more in control of the situation.
  4. Recognize the signs.  One of the most important things you can do is understand what causes your child to meltdown (not a tantrum which is handled much differently).  Provide information before an issue occurs (Zak, you have only two more, you can do it!).  This can be key in self regulation as the child knows there is an end point give them some control over the situation.
  5. Follow your child’s lead.  Offer assistance or join in.
  6. Use time-delay to encourage initiations.
  7. Allow your child to work at his/her pace.
  8. Ensure expectations are developmentally appropriate.  Pushing your child is good.  Pushing them over the edge, beware what is to come!
  9. Model appropriate nonverbal and verbal communication and request imitation.
  10. Define clear beginning, middle and end to activities.  Use reminders and timers to help.
  11. Provide repeated learning opportunities throughout the day for targeted skills.

It is a non-stop process and you must be focused to ensure the child’s self regulating success.  I can tell you it is not easy.  Sometimes, stress or simply being tired are easy excuses – been there.  It is the most important thing you can do to help your child is to help them understand how self regulation strategies will help them stay in control.  Give them the tools and skills necessary to succeed and constantly work with them to ensure self regulation success.

For years, we have been working with Zak.  The therapy and the reinforcement, we know we are doing something right as he continues to improve every day.  Especially when Zak come home with a positive day or when he gets on the phone and talks all about his day to grammy!  Makes it all worth while.

(Prizant, B., “Module 4: Enhancing Social Developing for Students with ASD in General Education Classrooms”.

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