Regardless of whether you are crying or laughing, if you cannot control your emotional state, then you are dysregulated. From time to time most of us need a little help staying well regulated. 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. Driving in the snow in Vancouver makes me frustrated. I know that our families are going to have a hard time getting to play groups. When I am feeling frustrated I ask myself, “What’s My Number?”
Janet (aged 6) regulates herself by chewing on toys, and pulling strings or ribbons through her fingers. Therefore, Janet uses primarily behavioural strategies to communicate and meet her regulatory needs.
Many individuals with autism experience dysregulation due to their sensory, communication, and social needs. Like all of us, individuals may use behavioural, language or even metacognitive strategies to regulate.
Ivan (aged 4) arrives at play group appearing to be mildly dysregulated. When asked what his number is, Ivan’s answers, “I already know my number. I am at a 3 because I am not so happy when not all of my friends are here”. Ivan is using language strategies to communicate and meet his regulatory needs.
Our Integrated Play Groups® programs support all the players (children with autism and their peers) with the tools they need to meet and express their regulatory needs. We also model and teach language and metacognitive strategies by designing a What’s My Number activity. This activity teaches children to identify, express and reflect on their emotional state using emotional “check-ins” throughout the play group sessions.
Brian (aged 8) is preparing to play with his favourite play theme (Star Wars) at play group. He appears to be feeling mildly dysregulated. When asked how he is feeling, Brain’s answers, “Well I am feeling happy, because I love Star Wars. But I am a little worried that my friends will not want to play it too. Can we check with them to see?” Brian is using both language and metacognitive strategies to communicate and meet his regulatory needs.
What’s My Number activities provided at the Friend 2 Friend Play Centres supports children to learn about their emotional state. Thus giving them a strong foundation for staying well regulated, even during stressful times.
So the next time you are stuck in traffic or look outside and see another 10cm of snow, ask yourself, What’s My Number. Modeling for the children around you how to stay well regulated by labeling and expressing our internal states even during blasts of winter weather.