“Now Everyone Can Know How I Feel!” Understanding Emotional Regulation and the Autism Spectrum by Heather McCracken
We all have experienced at one time or another the fight or flight response – this is a natural human reaction to being extremely dysregulated.
As we grow and mature we generally get better at staying well regulated (ready and available for engaging and learning) and at regulating ourselves even during stressful situations. The strategies we use for staying well regulated are uniquely our own and sometimes a little unconventional.
Emotional dysregulation is, in itself, a spectrum. You can be mildly dysregulated to extremely dysregulated or anywhere in between. Many different factors or stimuli, such as lack of sleep or exercise, poor diet, sensory stimuli, or any type of negative or positive experiences may cause you to feel dysregulated. Therefore, the strategies we use to stay or become well regulated also vary. Regardless of whether you are crying or laughing, if you cannot control your emotional state, then you are extremely dysregulated.
Most of us need a little help staying well regulated from time to time. Sometimes we need a walk, a hug, to yell, scream, cry, or even talk to a trusted friend. Individuals on the autism spectrum are no exception. In fact, many individuals say they experience their own and other people’s emotions with great intensity, even when the emotions are subtle.
Many individuals with autism experience extreme emotional dysregulation in the school or classroom environment. This is because the sensory, communication, and social expectations in these environments are very difficult for individuals on the spectrum to process. In an effort to support individuals on the autism spectrum in inclusive settings, Friend 2 Friend prepares children with autism and their peers by designing a “What’s My Number?” communication board and system of supports. This activity teaches children to recognize, identify, express and reflect on their emotional state using emotional “check-ins” regularly throughout the child’s day.
At the Friend 2 Friend Play Centre, the Play Guides (adult facilitators) model how to use the “What’s My Number?” emotional regulation board by taking their picture and putting it next to the number (1-5) that best represent their emotional state. The play guide will also say, “I am feeling at a 2”. The Master Guide will encourage a player to then ask, “Why do you feel like you are at a 2?” to model reflection and support common focus.
All of the children (novice and expert players) in the group then take turns sharing what their number is at the beginning (opening ritual) and end (closing ritual) of each play group. If a child becomes dysregulated at any time during play group he or she is encouraged to revisit the “What’s My Number” communication board for an “emotional check-in” where the above process is repeated with the player. This visual, tactile and auditory activity supports children to learn about their emotional state, giving them a strong foundation for staying well regulated, even during stressful times.
Many children (and adults) have difficulty regulating their own emotional states. But when we learn how to say, “I am at a 4” this give us a means to recognize, identify, express and reflect on our emotional state, thereby reducing anxiety and increasing understanding, acceptance and empathy for the people around us.
Join us on September 27 & 28th at UBC to learn more about the Friend 2 Friend Integrated Play Groups programs. For more information on the F2F-IPG Conference/Fundraiser, please see this link: http://www.friend2friendsociety.org/adult-programs/integrated-play-groups-conference/
Fall Fundraiser to provide free programs to children with autism and their peers
Vancouver, B.C. Canada – Friend 2 Friend announces a fall fundraiser to benefit children with autism and their peers with free Play Centre programs.
“What do you remember most about childhood? The answer is almost always friends” says McCracken founder and executive director of Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society. “Friendships are what motivate us to get up in the morning and go to school and to work. Imagine what it must be like for a child on the autism spectrum to never be invited to play after school or go to a birthday party.”
These elements of loneliness and exclusion are exactly what Friend 2 Friend seeks to address. The Vancouver based, non-government funded, notforprofit charity facilitates friendships and peer social relationships between children with autism and their peers. Last September the decadeold organization launched their state-of-art play centre in East Vancouver and started offering their entre based Integrated Play Groups programs. “The Centre based programs, like all Friend 2 Friend Programs are offered to families at 1/3 of the cost to the ociety. But for many families any fee is too much, so the ociety does its best to offer families in need our programs completely free of charge,” says McCracken.
In order to further this goal, Friend 2 Friend is hosting the 2013 Integrated Play Conference on September 27th and 28th at the Vancouver Hillel, UBC. This fundraising conference featuring peer play expert Dr. Pamela Wolfberg (Professor at San Francisco State University) will offer attendees the opportunity to learn the principles and practices of the Friend 2 Friend – Integrated Play Groups program. At the same time help raise funds to supply children with autism and their families unique and innovative programs completely free of charge.
Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society was founded in 2002 by Heather McCracken — a parent of three, including a son who has autism. The nonprofit charity provides innovative social, communication, peer play and friendship programs to children on the autism spectrum and with related needs throughout B.C., Canada, the United States and internationally.
For more information visit our online press room at www.friend2friendsociety.org/contact/press-room or contact us at:
Twitter @F2FHeather, @F2FPlayCentre
The Friend 2 Friend Play Centre in Autism Parent Magazine
The Friend 2 Friend Play Centre, A Safe Haven Where Children With Autism and Their Peers Find The support They Need To Play and Make Friends
Friend 2 Friend Play Centre Lights It Up Blue for International Autism Awareness Month!
5 BC Communities to Receive Free F2F Program
BC Communities Capacity Building Program is designed to provide school districts and community organizations throughout British Columbia, Canada with the materials and training to implement the Can I Play Too?: Autism Demystification Puppet Packaged Program to children ages 3-11 in their local area.
This programs is completely free to the first five community organizations to register with Friend 2 Friend. Services must be provided on or before December 2013.
Contact our office for details at email@example.com