Letting go is hard. Every day inflicts countless little nicks and cuts to our emotional well-being. Some of them heal on their own, and some of them grow into simmering resentments that affect other relationships and interactions, becoming a vicious cycle of frustration and recrimination.
For children with autism spectrum disorders, letting go of the emotional chaff from frustrating social interaction can be especially difficult. Adaptive strategies and visual supports can scaffold healthy and sustainable emotional self regulation.
In my work running social skills groups for children, teenagers, and adolescents on the autism spectrum I have found one tool in particular that I would recommend to anyone that sometimes experiences difficulty letting things go emotionally, which is everyone.
On an index card, write, "NEVERMIND". Put it in your pocket, and pull it out when you need it. Pay attention to your body. If you listen carefully it will let you know when to use your nevermind card. You might notice that your breathing has changed and become shallow. Your back or chest might get tight, or your posture may change.
Children on the autism spectrum often have a harder time establishing an inner monologue, or "self talk". You can help to bring attention to the somatic signs of tension by saying things like "I notice that your body is stiff, let's pull out the nevermind card and take a deep breath and a shrug together."
By practicing letting go, the "big shrug" you can help your child to develop healthy pro-social behavior patterns, and it is never too late to develop better habits for yourself! Try adding NEVERMIND to your emotional tool box.
Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut.