One of the hardest parts of parenting or educating an autistic child is managing the child’s emotions and later helping the child manage their own emotions.

Managing your autistic child’s emotions

One of the hardest parts of parenting or educating an autistic child is managing the child’s emotions and later helping the child manage their own emotions. 

Managing your autistic child’s emotions means that you need to understand the reason behind every behaviour and helping the child understand their own emotions means years of teaching “emotions”.

Let’s take a closer look.  The human has 6 basic emotions which include happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear and disgust which is pretty straight forward.  But it is not where it ends, because the human being also has other feelings and emotions that are by far more complex such as embarrassment, joy, trust, interest, anticipation, anxiety, guilt, pride, shame and this list goes on.

We all experience these and we all express these emotions differently but the one thing educators and parents alike tend to forget is that autistic children also experience all of these emotions and feelings. Sadly, many only focus their “teaching” on happy or sad.

As parents we tend to focus all our attention on the “act” of “emotion” which means that we tend to forget normal developing children start to use words and express feelings from a very young age. 

Autistic children can’t do that.  Not just do the majority of autistic people struggle with speech and language, they also have trouble identifying the actual emotions that they are feeling and it is up to us to help them.

Acknowledge and label all the emotions and feelings your child may be feelings and help recognise them by monitoring facial expressions and other emotional cues like the tone of voice or body language the child uses. 

Learn to think further than “happy” or “sad” and realise that tears or screaming can be frustration or even embarrassment.  Tears do not always mean “naughty” or sad.

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Ilse Kilian-Ross
ilse@amazingk.co.za

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 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, ABA, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.