Today's post is about a tool that can improve the quality of life for all of us - whether you're a parent guiding your child through the challenges and joys of autism, or you're an autistic person looking for ways to better navigate your world. I'm talking about self-regulation strategies.
Self-regulation is essentially our innate ability to manage our emotional states, impulses, and sensory experiences. It's how we respond to stress, and it determines how we handle sensory information. For autistic individuals, it can be an important key to managing their perceptions and responses to the world around them.
Here are some self-regulation strategies that Andrew used when he got frustrated or overwhelmed :
Deep Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing is a simple yet highly effective method of self-regulation. It helps to lower stress levels and promotes a sense of calm, which can be particularly beneficial during moments of sensory overload. Guiding your child through slow, deep breaths, or practicing this yourself, can bring a sense of tranquility in moments of high intensity. With Andrew, I take deep breaths and count and he would follow.
Consider trying this together: take a deep breath in for a count of four, hold it for four counts, and then exhale for another four counts. Repeat until you or your child feels calmer.
Often, an environment can become too overwhelming for an autistic person. In these situations, a sensory break can be a saving grace. This can be any activity that provides a quiet, soothing environment away from the sensory stimulation. It could be a walk in a peaceful setting, time spent with a comforting weighted blanket, or even a few moments with a favorite sensory toy. Remember, each autistic person is unique, so what works for one may not work for another. Andrew relaxes with Legos and his iPad. Sometimes he needs a nap to reset for the day.
Engaging in Calming Activities
Regularly incorporating calming activities into the daily routine can assist in maintaining a balanced emotional state. These activities could range from drawing, painting, listening to soothing music, or reading a favorite book. What's most important is that the activity is something the individual finds comforting and calming. Painting, reading, and watching shows are activities Andrew finds calming and soothing. Everyday whenever he is overwhelmed or wants to relax we go and watch his favorite shows where he loves talking about what he loves.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present moment. It involves observing one's thoughts and feelings without judgment. Similarly, meditation involves focusing one's mind for a period of time to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. Both mindfulness and meditation can be powerful self-regulation tools for autistic individuals. You can start with just a few minutes each day and gradually increase the duration.
Regular exercise is a fantastic self-regulation tool. It not only helps to keep the body healthy but also aids in releasing pent-up energy and stress. Activities such as swimming, yoga, or even a simple walk can be hugely beneficial. Andrew loves to walk Oreo our dog to get some fresh air and to take a break from his electronics.
Understanding and managing one's emotions and sensory experiences can be a challenge for anyone, but especially so for autistic individuals. However, with the right techniques and plenty of practice, it is absolutely achievable.
Remember, the goal is not to suppress or change the ways in which an autistic person perceives and interacts with the world. Instead, these self-regulation strategies are tools to empower autistic individuals and their families to manage stress, reduce sensory overload, and foster a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
Till next time, remember to be kind, patient, and understanding. The world of autism is a diverse and beautiful one, and these tools are just a part of the journey in embracing and celebrating our unique neurological differences.
To all the autistic individuals out there - these strategies are for you. The knowledge I learned with Andrew I want to give to you. Use them to navigate the world in a way that feels comfortable and empowering to you. To all the parents - these strategies can help your child, but they also help you to better understand your child's world. And that understanding is the most powerful tool of all. All Andrew needed from me is someone to go to when he needed someone to understand him, even if he didn't understand himself.
Keep learning, keep growing, and remember: every step is a victory.