What is Emotional Regulation?

Emotional regulation (ER) is the ability to either knowingly or automatically manage your emotional state – this may mean employing conscious strategies to ‘calm down’ e.g. go for a walk, meditate or finding yourself shutting out or screening various stimuli that is distressing. This self-regulation allows us to proceed through daily lives managing the environmental and emotional demands of daily living. Importantly it also allows us to engage in the practical tasks of work, school and leisure activities.

Research (Mazefsky et al 2013; Mazefsky and White, 2014) indicates that Emotional Regulation can be difficult for some individuals with autism. This can lead to difficulties with managing mood, modulating responses to stimuli and overall a vulnerability to extreme reactions to stimuli. These responses are often termed ‘meltdowns’ or understood to be anger outbursts which often seem to have no discernible trigger or pattern.

ER difficulties can impede the individual with autism’s ability to conduct and complete practical tasks and in turn impede future motivation for task engagement.