If you are the parent of a child with autism, it may be hard to know how to help your child when they experience strong emotions.
All kids (and all adults!) experience strong emotions from time to time. But many kids with autism have trouble communicating with us about how they are feeling and what they need, and many don’t have the tools they need to get back to feeling calm after a meltdown.
Here are some steps you can take to help your child learn how to self-calm.
1. Do Some Detective Work
As a parent, you can be a detective to figure out what activities help your child feel calm. Start by gathering materials to try some calming activities with your child. Try teaching the activities when your child is calm, not when they are upset.
Pay attention to how they respond to each activity. Do they seem to enjoy the activity? Does it make them more amped up or do they seem to relax? If your child can communicate with you using pictures or words, have them show or tell you how each activity makes them feel. Here are some examples of activities you can try:
- Blowing craft balls off of a table or across the floor
- Blowing a pinwheel or feather
- Blowing out each finger like a birthday candle
- Taking deep breaths using a visual aid (you can search for “figure eight breathing” or teach your child to pretend to smell a flower and blow out a candle)
SQUEEZING & DEEP PRESSURE:
- Getting a hug
- Weighted blankets
- Squeezing stress balls
- Being squished gently beneath a large ball or between two couch cushions
- Getting into a Sensory Sack
- Biting a chew bracelet or chew necklace
- Pushing a heavy cart or table across the room
- Completing 10 chair pushups or wall pushups
- Doing 10 jumping jacks
- Pressing feet into a Bouncy Chair Fidget Band
- Doing a pulling exercise with an exercise band
- Completing an easy, appealing activity using their interest. This could be as simple as dropping items into a tin can to hear them “ding” as they drop in, looking at a liquid timer, matching pictures of favorite characters, or coloring a picture of something they love.
See Part 2.