5 Strategies for Teaching Emotional Regulation

As a special education teacher, you know that emotional regulation can be a challenge for many of your students. This is especially true for those with autism, who may have difficulty understanding and expressing their emotions. However, with the right strategies and support, you can help your students with autism learn to regulate their emotions and improve their overall well-being.

Here are five ways you can do this in your special education classroom:

Model appropriate emotional expression:

As a teacher, you have the opportunity to be a role model for your students. By demonstrating appropriate emotional expression and labeling your emotions for your students, you can help them learn how to identify and express their own emotions in a healthy way.

For example, if you are feeling frustrated, you can say, “I am feeling frustrated right now because I am having trouble getting this project finished on time. I am going to take a deep breath and try again.”

Use visual supports:

Visual supports, such as pictures or diagrams, can be extremely helpful for students with autism who have difficulty understanding abstract concepts. Consider creating a visual chart or social story that teaches your students about different emotions and how to regulate them.

You could include pictures of different facial expressions and the corresponding emotions, as well as some simple strategies for regulating emotions, like deep breathing or counting to ten.

Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques:

Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can be effective tools for helping students with autism regulate their emotions. These techniques can be especially helpful when your students are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Consider teaching your students some simple breathing exercises, such as counting to four on the inhale and exhale, or having them blow out candles to practice controlling their breath. You could also try incorporating relaxation techniques, like progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery, into your daily routine.

Encourage self-talk

Self-talk, or the act of talking to oneself in one's own mind, can be a helpful way for students with autism to process their emotions and gain control over them. Encourage your students to use positive self-talk, such as telling themselves “I can do this” or “I am calm,” to help regulate their emotions. You could also try writing positive affirmations on Post-It notes and placing them around the classroom for your students to see and read throughout the day

Use social stories

Social stories are short, personalized narratives that can be used to teach students with autism social skills and appropriate behaviors. Consider creating a social story that helps your students understand and manage their emotions. For example, you could write a story about a student who gets angry when things don't go his way, and how he can use deep breathing and counting to ten to calm down.

If you are looking for pre-made first then charts, you can find a bunch of different options in my visual aids bundle. Let me know if you are looking for something specific, I am always willing to add to this! 

Remember, it's important to be patient and understanding with your students as they learn to regulate their emotions. It can be a challenging process, and it may take some time for them to fully understand and use these techniques. With consistent practice and support, however, your students with autism can learn to better manage their emotions and improve their overall well-being.


Here is another blog post that you can read that teaches about 3 strategies on how to regulate your emotions. 


I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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