Emily Stone, LICSW, social worker and Senior Clinical Strategist at Mightier
Kids who are on the autism spectrum are loving, smart, and determined.
They are very passionate and tend to be experts in the things they are interested in. Their ability to think visually and logically often helps others solve problems and makes them a great person to have as a friend or teammate.
One way of helping kids who are on the autism spectrum to keep their cool is pairing conversations around emotional regulation with something they are passionate about. Topics like animals, trains, Legos, music, or whatever your child is interested in can be tailored to a conversation around mental well-being.
A topic that many kids love is video games. From Fortnite to Minecraft, I know a bit more than I would like to admit. While having conversations with kids about their interests and what gets them excited is an amazing way to create a positive relationship with a child and show that you care about their passions, it also can be a great way to mold conversations around emotions.
For example, many kids who love Minecraft may be more open to talking about their emotions if they assign different characters in the game feelings words or play out scenarios with the characters. I will use things like Minecraft figurines and have kids share scenarios (real or imaginary) and talk about ways to manage such scenarios productively. Because the conversation is connected to Minecraft, many kids are more open and excited to share.
Another great tool is feelings charts related to different characters or themes. One of my favorites is this Minecraft feelings chart, but finding charts that match your child’s interests is as easy as Googling a topic. For example, the search “Lego feelings chart,” will give you plenty of great ideas. Using these charts to check in about how your child is feeling when they wake up, after school, or at dinner with the whole family can be a great way to open up a conversation around emotions and situations throughout the day.
The most important thing is to take time to learn about your child’s interests, ask questions, and share along with them. Don’t shy away from learning something new and getting excited about their interests.