Autism behaviour and emotions

Helping your autistic child with behaviour means showing an understanding of their emotions

Typically developing children develop the ability to understand and express their emotions from birth.  Each year they become more aware of the emotions of the people around them and they learn to identify with these emotions.  Which in turn helps them understand their own emotions better.

Very young autistic children can show feelings in a similar way to typically developing babies but by the time many of these children get to school going age the same child might show their feelings very differently and often inappropriately.

Many children with ASD will struggle to respond appropriately to situations.  Their emotional responses may be over the top and when the child is feeling overwhelmed or emotional then the child can find it extremely difficult to regulate.

This is because autistic children and many adults with autism find it hard to recognise emotions, facial expressions and other emotional cues like tone of voice or body language.  They also often struggle to show and manage their own emotions.

Whilst we can find it difficult to recognise and interpret our own emotions it is very important for us to show an understanding of the emotions that an autistic person feels.  Acknowledge the fact that you understand the child has challenges.  Do not get angry and frustrated because this can lead to a “fuel-to-the-fire” situation where your reaction towards the behaviour will in fact make the behaviour worse. 

Children with autism need to be taught “emotions” – they need to be taught how to identify the emotions of other as well as their own and they need to be taught how to react appropriately in all situations.

But what they need more – is our understanding of their challenges.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.