Understanding Emotions

Dr Tony Attwood’s work on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is very important for children with autism spectrum. According to Tony people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need to work on feelings and emotions AT LEAST ONE HOUR EVERY WEEK from early childhood right through to adulthood. The issue is not that children with ASD DON’T have feelings or emotions – it’s that they don’t always understand their feelings or emotions, and often don’t have strategies to deal with them.

Interestingly, Tony talks about how feelings of sadness or anxiety can often come out as anger. They need a way to vent their feelings and as some just don’t know how to cry – they hit out instead. Teaching them to understand how they are feeling is a very useful tool in helping them to manage their own behaviour. Feelings of frustration or anxiety can very quickly escalate into major meltdowns, but with an emotional toolbox children can learn to manage these feelings before they reach boiling point.

Those of you who saw the wonderful ‘Australian Story’ on Tony in late 2017, the books they discussed as clinically proven are Exploring Feeling: CBT to Manage Anxiety and Anger (see below).

Managing Emotions

A key for students to fully participate in education is teaching them to manage their emotions, in particular any anger and/or anxiety. Tony Attwood’s Cognitive Behaviour Therapy books are a great tool to use as a return to school or class plan. In my experience withdrawing students and excluding students doesn’t actually resolve the underlying reason why they are not participating in school. Teaching students to understand their emotions and how to manage them has much better outcomes for everyone.

At his workshops and in his books Tony discusses using an Emotional Tool Box to help repair emotions.

  1. Physical Tools
  2. Relaxation Tools
  3. Social Tools

When helping children understand their emotions, sometimes we need to support them to understand what makes them anxious verses what makes them angry. Here are 10 causes of anger and anxiety according to my Facebook friends. I hope they help you identify triggers for kids you know.

10 Common Reasons for Anxiety

  1. Being teased.
  2. Getting a new teacher.
  3. Not getting to sleep.
  4. Someone hurting them on purpose.
  5. Having to make choices.

10 Common Reasons for Anger

  1. Getting work wrong.
  2. When others won’t play with them.
  3. Perceived to be treated unfairly.
  4. Someone shouts at them.
  5. When people interfere with their games or belongings.

Of course, what makes some children anxious makes others angry, and this is why it is great to do a programme like CBT to help you establish an individual child’s emotional reactions.

For 2018 workshops with Dr Tony Attwood go to out Workshop  page.

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