Identifying signs of emotional dysregulation associated with Autism


So many children on the autism spectrum have problems regulating their emotions.  This is sometimes mistaken by the adults in their lives as defiance.  As parents and teachers feel disrespected, they typically respond in kind – and the situation mushrooms into a fireball of – well – awfulness.

It is important to understand that most children with ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) tend to operate within a framework of anxiety, and anything that pushes them outside their comfort zones can create chaos. This is called dysregulation. If we, as the adults, can learn to step back and analyze before we respond, these situations can be turned into teaching opportunities.

Common signs of dysregulation can include:

  • Very high anxiety
  • Inability to be flexible
  • Hiding
  • Getting under tables
  • Isolating themselves
  • Throwing things
  • Screaming
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Refusing to speak
  • Stemming
  • Rocking
  • Running away
  • Saying opposites
  • Crying
  • Dissociating (failing to respond to you)

If your child is on the autism spectrum, keep in mind these red-flag behaviors that may indicate your child needs some extra help processing an event or emotion. There are many constructive ways that parents, teachers, and other adults in these kids’ lives can help in these situations, rather than add to the chaos – it’s just about knowing how to recognize dysregulation and respond properly.


– Suzanne Broyles M.S., LPC, RPT-S


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