Have you ever struggled to meet the needs of your young autistic students who require support with their self regulation skills and emotions? Many times, this can impact your ability to teach pre-academic and other
school-related skills. Therefore, the child’s ability to function successfully within a classroom setting is also affected.
1. Identify Sensory Differences To Support Self Regulation & Emotions
Your young neurodiverse students may not walk into the preschool setting with neurological systems that are prepared to handle sensory input that comes with being in a classroom setting. It is crucial to identify individual sensory needs and accommodations that will support these differences. If a body is in “fight or flight” mode or is in sensory overload, it will not be able to take in what you are trying to teach. A body in that state definitely won’t be able to learn in a group setting.
Occupational therapists are usually your first go-to for ideas for supporting a child’s sensory systems. This is because most OT’s have training in identifying sensory needs in children and can help you make a plan. Most importantly, talk to the little learner’s parents. Parents have the best tips for what works to meet the child’s sensory needs. With young learners, who are 3-4 years old, it can be helpful to start using a visual support to help them identify how they are feeling and choose a strategy to help their body. This will pave the way to start using a program like the Zones Of Regulation.
2. Build A Relationship To Support Self Regulation & Emotions
I’m not going to beat around the bush on this one. If you don’t have a positive relationship with your student, you have nothing. The beginning of the school year is a prime opportunity to reduce demands and put relationship building at the forefront. It will set the stage for the entire school year. If you invest in creating a relationship based on trust and support, your will get more out of your student. Some of the best ways to do this are to play more, do activities that you know they like, and have fun together! The book Early Intervention Games by Barbara Sher has some fantastic ideas for fun games.
3. Implement An Effective Communication System
When a child does not have an effective way to communicate, they have no way of expressing their sensory needs, except through behavior. When I’m saying “behavior”, that doesn’t only mean aggressive behavior. It means anything that the child does to communicate that they are dysregulated or uncomfortable. Behavior IS communication. Let me repeat that louder for everyone in the back. BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION. This is why it is so important to implement an effective communication system for young learners with autism. If the child is able to develop a reliable way to communicate their wants, needs, and preferences, their behavior will improve. Having a reliable way to communicate will also reduce their stress level. They will be able to start to let you know what they need to self regulate and manage their emotions.
For more tips on self regulation, and emotions for young autistic children, read this blog post.
Be sure to grab up this free Visual Supports Starter Set by clicking here!