Behaviors and Emotion Regulation

Individuals with ASD can exhibit many different behaviors and emotional states. Most commonly, behaviors and emotional problems are called “meltdowns.” Books can be–and have been–written on the various “meltdowns” some with ASD can have. For book recommendations, see the Reading Recommendations page. For this website’s purposes, only highlights and general recommendations on dealing with “meltdowns” will be given.

Behaviors and Emotion Regulation

The inability to regulate one’s emotions may stem from a variety of factors. Many individuals with ASD also suffer from other disorders that effect emotional regulation, such as anxiety disorders. Also, the lack of theory of mind, which many people list as the root symptom of ASD, can be a primary factor in the ability to regulate emotion in social settings.

Problem behaviors and emotional meltdowns may manifest themselves in different ways for different individuals. Some common examples may include, yet not limited to, screaming, hitting others or themselves, crying hysterically, throwing objects, and/or running away.

Intervention and Supports

There are many different invention strategies to help with behaviors and emotional regulation. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is probably the most well known intervention to help with problem behaviors. While most people view ABA therapy as an easy home therapy technique, it is actually quite complex and difficult to use effectively. Therefore, individuals who are trained and certified in ABA should be consulted before implementing such a behavioral plan.

Routines, scripts, and modeling are all effective interventions as well. Routines and scripts may help an individual learn how to act appropriately in different scenarios, as well as self advocate when a break or change is needed. Modeling emotions through visual charts or recordings can teach an individual what certain emotional states look like. They can also show how peers handle emotional states, or how they react to the emotions of others. Teaching an individual to self-monitor emotional states is the goal of these methods and can be achieved through self recording strategies–such as charts or self-recorded video playback.

More Information

Buron, K. D., & Myles, B. S. (2014). Emotional regulation. In K. D. Buron & P. Wolfberg, Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators and Related Practitioners (2nd ed., pp. 83-105). Shawnee Mission, KS: AAPC Publishing.

Alberto, P. A., & Troutman, A. C. (2013). Applied behavior analysis for teachers (9th ed.). United States of America: Pearson.


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