Cultivating the Seeds of Self Regulation

Kids with autism cannot be expected to self regulate emotions until we teach the skills needed to do so. But don’t get too excited. Our work is not over once the “content has been covered.” I suppose that it true for all teaching. Deep learning needs far more than coverage of skills. To learn a skill well enough to be able to use it under stress and in different situations, we have to have a whole lot of guided practice, support and then a gradual release of the skill into our own hands without the direct support of another human being.

The process seems to be a lot like garden work. It’s not enough to dig a hole, throw a seed in and then rest with a cold beverage while the seed ‘does its thing.’ I am no expert gardener, but, I am quite sure that we need to provide that seed with sunshine, water and we have to keep those nutrient sucking weeds away from our little seed. We may even need to throw in some fertilizer to give it an extra edge in the growth department.

Our students and children with autism are desperately in need of some gardening in terms of teaching the of those pesky emotions, high anxiety and sensory challenges that can sneak up on them and attack like a swarm of beetles!

The Seeds:

  • Teach how to recognize early symptoms of social stress and anxiety (repetitive movement, perseverative talking, swearing, oppositional behavior, inattention or escape behavior)
  • Teach and practice daily specific stress reduction techniques (deep breathing, visual imagery, exercise, yoga and so on)
  • Teach students how to identify and name emotions and the varying ‘levels’ or degrees of an emotion
  • Teach physiological signals that our bodies give us when anxiety levels begin to rise
  • Teach how to monitor different emotional states and successful responses to those statesDaily Care
  • Practice strategies daily – throughout the day at every learning opportunity possible
  • demonstrate your own use of the calming strategies and name your own emotional states
  • affirm progress
  • acknowledge attempts
  • gradually release control and watch the seed grow!Awesome Tools ….ONLY if nurtured daily




Just remember, a book or program is only as good as the teacher’s consistent practice, encouragement and authentic engagement with the student. YOU make the difference.

Happy Gardening!  😛





About the Author:

Leave A Comment

18 + twenty =