Home > School and Learning > Learning Differences > Asperger's Syndrome > Your Asperger Child: Emotional Regulation
|

Your Asperger Child: Emotional Regulation

In order to handle our distress, it is necessary to control our emotions and not allow anxiety, depression, anger, and resistance to control us and prevent our use of logic and reason. If we cannot get past emotions, verbal strengths cannot be utilized. It is through our language that behavior control occurs. We use self-talk, as well as conversations with others, to make sense of what happens to us.

To understand emotions, we must distinguish between primary and secondary emotions. A primary emotion is what we feel first. The secondary emotion is what follows from it. For example, we feel anger (the secondary emotion), but the primary emotion that leads to this might be stress, a blocked need, or something else. If we understand the primary or underlying emotion we can figure out how to help. Thus, identifying these unmet emotional needs leads to a solution. For your child, anxiety is a major primary emotion that occurs for numerous reasons, but it almost always leads to a secondary emotion such as anger, upset, crying, or aggression. If we only respond to the secondary emotion, for example, the anger, we will miss the cause of the problem and no real solution will occur. If we respond to the anxiety, we will be able to address the real cause of the problem. Emotions must be understood and dealt with in a systematic manner, including the teaching of specific management skills.

Anxiety Management

Anxiety cannot be measured or observed except through its behavioral manifestation – either verbal or nonverbal. A child can cry, complain of a stomachache or headache, crawl under the table, become argumentative, call others unkind names, or in some other way show distress. They may all be manifestations of anxiety. To manage the anxiety, we divide it into a number of parts:

  1. You must recognize and identify the source of the anxiety.
  2. You must help your child identify the source of the anxiety if she is old enough to understand this concept.
  3. Make a list of numerous anxiety-producing situations, from easy ones to those that are more difficult (this is called anxiety mapping).
  4. Create an anxiety hierarchy – put the events in order from easy to hard.
  5. Prevent anxiety by external control – structuring the environment to make it predictable, consistent, and safe.
  6. Gradually shift anxiety control to your child by preparing her for anxiety-producing situations by discussing antecedents, settings, triggers, and actions to take. She acts comfortable in these situations, and you'll know anxiety has been reduced when anxiety is no longer seen. If not calm, she asks for help and a further discussion ensues.
  7. Further develop replacement behaviors and increasingly turn these over to your child to demonstrate. These alternative behaviors are the prosocial and appropriate complements to the inappropriate behaviors your child may currently demonstrate; for example, using words to discuss a problem instead of screaming.
  8. Develop, practice, and rehearse new behaviors prior to exposure to the real situation.
  9. Finally, implement new behaviors in the actual situations where anxiety occurs. Through your child's ability to demonstrate alternative behaviors and/or report being calm, we make the assumption that anxiety has been reduced.
  10. If she is old enough, teach your child increasing independence in anticipating and coping with anxiety in a variety of situations.
This is the process used to determine what situations are upsetting. They will always start at the concrete level, but will quickly need to be expanded to other similar situations. For example, you may need to help your child learn to temporarily stop a video game. But at some point, you will have to extend this learning to the much broader concept of "switching gears," which means to end something before you are ready to do so. Your child must learn to do this in a variety of settings, using many of the skills and concepts we have already discussed – resiliency, structure, preparation, replacement behaviors, and so forth.

|

From Parenting Your Asperger Child by Alan Sohn, Ed.D., and Cathy Grayson, M.A. Copyright 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

get ready for school!

We’ve got your
shopping list,
lunch menu,
and more.

GO

highlights

Printable Fall Fun To-Do List
Celebrate the cooler weather with this printable checklist of fun fall activities for your whole family.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top 10 Care Package Items for College Students
Show your college student that you love and miss her by mailing a care package full of dorm room essentials and comforting treats. Whether it's her birthday, exam time, or just because, get care package ideas to brighten her day.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!