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Thriving in the Midst of Chaos: Parenting With Special Needs Kids

Jul 30, 2020

Episode 47: Emotion Regulation in Children With ADHD and Autism With Guest Dr. Claire Thomas-Duckwitz

In this episode, we discuss emotion regulation in children with ADHD and autism. Guest Dr. Claire Thomas-Duckwitz discusses that emotion regulation means managing strong emotions. Emotions have two parts: the physiological aspect and the subjective feeling state. To regulate emotions, you need to notice them and then manage them. Emotion dyregulation is defined as not effectively managing strong emotions. There are two types of behaviors that stem from emotion dysregulation: internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Internalizing behaviors are when one holds the emotions in, and this may look like anxiety and depression. A person might withdraw, and have headaches, stomacheaches, and/or dizziness. Externalizing behaviors happen when one expresses emotions outwardly, such as verbal or physical aggression.

It is important to note that all emotions have purpose. There is no such thing as good or bad emotions, just comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. Subtle emotions come first, and then the big ones, but we tend not to pay attention to the subtle ones, which we also need to pay attention to. It is important to note that emotions are transient. One can imagine that emotions are like clouds in the sky and just move on by. She recommends observing negative self talk and replacing it with realistic self-talk.

To prevent dysregulation, practicing mindfulness is very helpful. Mindfulness is being aware of your body in the moment, without judging your feelings or thoughts. It can bring permanent positive changes in the brain. Dr. Thomas-Duckwitz usually has her students use different mindfulness apps, as they provide needed structure. She recommends engaging in daily mindfulness. It is important for parents to help cue the children, because children often forget. One can use strategies such as noticing your breath or being mindfulness of sounds, or 54321 grounding. 54321 grounding is the following: noticing 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. She recommends using this strategy when one is experiencing strong emotions to get one back in the moment. If one is noticing that their mind is wandering during mindfulness practice, she recommends thinking "oops" and then bringing their mind back to breathing. Parents of children with autism can find and read social stories for mindfulness to their children to help them learn the strategies. She also recommends using biofeedback strategies.

There are lots of things that parents can do to help their children with emotion regulation. First, parents need to regulate their own emotions. We can show our emotions and then model/explain what we are doing to manage them; in other words, narrate our experience. If we "mess up," we can tell our children what we should have done instead. Parents can also cue their children to engage in mindfulness and biofeedback strategies. Parents can also help children notice the child's strong emotions in the moment. We can help in other moments by naming subjective feeling states.

Links :

Links :
A Little Cerebral Podcast

Second Step
Committee for Children
Smiley Minds App
Whole Brain Child
DBT Self Help
Headspace App
Think Social
Everyday Speech
No Drama Discipline
Dr. Ross Greene

Research on why mindfulness works:
Paper 1
Paper 2
Paper 3

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Show Music:
Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (

Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple

Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.

Copyright 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple