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Calming Activities to Help Students with Autism Regulate Emotions

Calming Activities
Calming Activities

Children with autism often face challenges with emotional regulation, which can manifest as meltdowns or shutdowns during times of stress or sensory overload. Providing structured support through calming activities can significantly aid in their ability to manage and express emotions healthily and constructively.


Effective Calming Strategies

Here are several proven activities and strategies designed to help children with autism calm down and regain control over their emotions:


1. Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing is a simple yet powerful way to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Teach students to inhale slowly through their nose, hold for a count of three, and exhale gently through their mouth. This method helps to slow down their heart rate and promote relaxation.


2. Sensory Integration Activities

Many children with autism are either hypersensitive or under-sensitive to sensory input. Tailoring activities that integrate sensory experiences can help them manage sensory sensitivities. For example, using a weighted blanket, playing with sensory bins, or spending time in a quiet, dimly lit room can provide the necessary relief.


3. Visual Schedules and Timers

Visual aids like schedules or timers can help reduce anxiety about the unknown or transitions between activities. These tools offer a predictable structure that can be comforting to students with autism.


4. Mindfulness and Meditation

Introducing guided meditations or mindfulness activities can help students focus on the present moment and alleviate feelings of overwhelm. Simple meditation exercises or yoga can also encourage relaxation and emotional control.


5. Music and Art Therapy

Music and art provide expressive outlets that are both soothing and engaging. Listening to calming music or engaging in drawing or coloring can be excellent ways for students to explore their feelings in a non-verbal way.


6. Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is crucial for emotional health. Activities like walking, jumping on a trampoline, or simple stretching exercises can help release pent-up energy and improve overall mood.


7. Storytime and Role-Playing

Reading stories that illustrate coping mechanisms or role-playing different scenarios can help children learn how to respond to various social situations. This strategy not only aids in emotional regulation but also enhances social understanding.


8. Use of Technology

Apps and games designed for emotional regulation can be particularly engaging for children with autism. These tools often use interactive elements to teach breathing techniques, identify emotions, and practice calm responses.


If you are a teacher and if your student with autism is experiencing distress, these activities can aid them with self-regulation.


Detailed Calming Activities

Coloring as a Mindful Practice

Overview: Coloring can serve as a therapeutic mind-body exercise that promotes concentration and tranquility.

Implementation: Maintain a collection of coloring pages readily available in the classroom. Introduce them during times of stress as a calming activity. For starter resources, explore printable options such as 'Picnic,' 'Nature Walk,' and 'Group Project' available from educational resources like Waterford.


Calm-Down Cards

Overview: Custom calm-down cards can provide quick relief and coping mechanisms for students feeling overwhelmed.

Implementation: Create cards that contain simple, soothing strategies and visuals. These cards can be especially beneficial not only for students with autism but also for those dealing with anxiety. For DIY instructions, platforms like And Next Comes L provide step-by-step guides.


Mindfulness Exercises

Overview: Mindfulness encourages presence and emotional control through focused exercises.

Implementation: Regularly practice mindfulness activities such as guided breathing exercises or gentle meditations tailored to the needs of autistic students to enhance their ability to self-regulate during stressful situations.


Grounding Techniques

Overview: Grounding techniques can anchor students during moments of distress, helping them return to the present.

Implementation: Teach simple grounding methods like counting slowly, listening to specific sounds, or tactile engagement with objects like clay or soft toys. These activities help divert the mind from stress and refocus on the current environment.


Student Retreat Zone

Overview: A designated relaxation area in the classroom can provide a safe space for students to unwind and recover from sensory overload.


Implementation: Equip a quiet corner with sensory-friendly items such as soft seating, sensory toys, and quiet activities. Ensure all students know they can use this space when feeling anxious or overwhelmed.


Calm Down Kit

Overview: A calm down kit stocked with various sensory toys can assist students in managing their sensory needs and focus issues.


Implementation: Assemble a drawer or box with items like play dough, fidget spinners, stress balls, weighted blankets, and aromatherapy pillows. Allow students to choose an item to help them settle when they are distressed.


Incorporating these strategies into the educational environment can significantly aid students with autism by providing them with tools to manage their emotions effectively. By fostering a supportive and understanding atmosphere, educators can help students navigate their sensory and emotional challenges more successfully.

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