Learning to identify and regulate emotions can be very challenging, especially for young children on the autism spectrum. While emotions can feel overwhelming, there are tools that can help your child learn to identify, and regulate, their emotions.
Use Familiar Books & Videos
Using fun books and videos to identify facial expressions and label emotions is a fun way to teach your child to, eventually, label their own emotions.
Here is a fun example video you can watch with your child where we read a story called “Snowmen at Night”. Using the illustrations in the book, we point out different expressions and emotions: EAS Story Time: Snowmen at Night
Parenting Tips for Story Time
- Here’s a helpful video just for the parents where our team offers simple suggestions you can use at home to help your child engage with story time at home: M.O.M Tip: minute of material – Tools to Help Your Child Engage in Story Time
Zones of Regulation
Another way you can help your child learn to identify and manage emotions is using Zones of Regulation. Identifying facial expressions can be challenging for some individuals with autism, so Zones of Regulation teaches emotions in the form of colors. Once kids learn what behaviors and emotions fall under each color, they start learning how other people feel when they are in certain zones.
How it Works
There are 4 colors: Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. (This section will have photos)
Blue Zone means you’re tired, bored, not quite ready to work, etc.
Green Zone means you’re calm, relaxed, ready for the day, eager to learn, etc.
Yellow Zone means maybe you’re annoyed, getting frustrated, or maybe starting to feel a little out of control, but not quite there yet
Red Zone means you’re out of control, furious, terrified or devastated
How to Teach Zones of Regulation at Home
Imagine your child is upset after losing a game of monopoly with his friend. He’s frustrated and starting to lose control. He stops talking to his friend and stomps away. This would be the “yellow zone”. Using the zones approach, consider asking your child, “How do you think your behaviors are making your friend feel?” “What kinds of things are they thinking?” “What might they say to you?” These kinds of questions teach a child how their behaviors affect others. Soon after, they’re learning about appropriate responses to different events in their lives. Some problems are really big, but some are really small. Red Zone responses may be appropriate for huge problems, but they aren’t appropriate for tiny problems. Zones of Regulation focuses the rest of the curriculum on teaching appropriate replacement behaviors in the form of coping strategies. There are tons of different strategies, from breathing exercises to physical activity to requesting breaks.
Ultimately Zones of Regulation can be a great tool for teaching emotional regulation to your child. If you’d like some help in teaching the Zones to your child, reach out to your child’s BCBA. They can assess your child’s needs and build an individualized program for them. If your child does not currently have a BCBA, and you’d like to speak with a clinician, please give our team a call to schedule a free consultation.
Heather Snodgrass | Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Early Autism Services
Jessica Goldberg | Autism Parent & Behavior Therapist/Outreach Specialist
Early Autism Services