One of the things autistic kids struggle with is mood regulation. Our OT (occupational therapist) has been working with the kids on this lately, getting them to think about what state their body/mind is in (hyper/excited or slow/lethargic) and then think about ways to move that state back to the calm, alert state that is good for learning and listening. Recently, Emily made this “mood gauge” as a tool to get her thinking about her current mood. Just getting her aware of how she is acting/feeling is a good first step, and from there she will learn ways in which she can make herself more alert or more relaxed.
The mood gauge is simply a piece of pipe cleaner with small piece of drinking straw that slides up and down to indicate mood. Emily has described her hyper state as “hysterical-insane”. This is when she gets really hyper, may laugh uncontrollably, or just generally be really annoying and push everyone’s buttons! She describes the ideal state (in the middle) as “perfect – in control and alert”, and the lethargic state as “zombie – bleegh”. I have already noticed her becoming more aware of her moods since she did this exercise.
Sasha has not made his mood gauge yet, but they have been working with one that the OT already had. He is more resistant to learning about this, which is consistent with his age and emotional maturity. But the seeds are being planted in his mind, and that is what counts for now.
For him they are referring to “engine speed”. When he is lethargic his engine is running low, and when he’s fidgety and unable to focus his engine is “too high”. In the middle is “perfect” (sorry about the blurriness in this photo).
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