The letter below was written by a parent of an autistic child who read one of our recent posts on the importance of co-regulation. Too often our schools can be aversive places for children. As parents and teachers, as humans, we want our children to be happy and fulfilled at school. It should be a place they can thrive, learn and grow. In safety.
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Co-Regulation and My Child
To those trying their best in a broken system,
As a proud mum of an absolutely amazing child, my life has been an emotional ride of ups and downs. He happens to have a diagnosis of Autism. When I first heard the “a” word, I felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights – completely overwhelmed. As time has gone by I’ve grown to appreciate all the wonderful things that make my child so special and unique. And, I’ve discovered that one of the most fantastic tools in my parenting toolkit is the art of co-regulation.
While it’s not a magic solution, co-regulation has been a total game-changer for us. When I first started using co-regulation with my child instead of traditional discipline methods, I received some disapproving looks from certain people. But you know what? I’m not here to win any parenting awards – my priority is helping my child thrive! So, if anyone wants to judge me for prioritising connection over control, they can take a number and join the queue!
My son had a tough time in his early years, struggling with meltdowns, anxiety, and outbursts. My husband and I tried everything – from therapies to interventions – to help him cope with his emotions. Some worked for a little while, but most didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Then, we discovered how co-regulation can help, and everything changed. By tuning in to our son’s needs and offering support when he needed it most, we saw a real shift in his ability to regulate his emotions. He had fewer meltdowns and was generally much happier and more content. As parents, we realised that our job was not to fix or control his feelings, but to be there for him as he navigated through them, providing a safe and supportive environment to learn and grow.
School staff play a critical role in the lives of autistic children. You are the human element of the education system. It is essential that you try to understand and adopt the principles of co-regulation in your interactions with our children.
In order to make this happen, we need to speak up for appropriate training and support for all staff members who work with autistic children. This means going beyond the usual behavior management and discipline techniques and delving into a deeper understanding of the emotional and sensory needs of autistic children. I need you to have the ability to respond to my son with empathy and effectiveness. I don’t want you to just talk about stereotypes, I want you to know about how autism affects my son.
Co-regulation has truly been a game-changer for our family. It has strengthened our connections, built our resilience, and helped us navigate challenges with more ease. But our journey doesn’t end here. We need to keep pushing for the integration of co-regulation principles in our schools, communities, and homes.
To everyone working with autistic children, I encourage you to fully embrace the power of co-regulation. This collaborative and empathetic approach can have a tremendous impact on the lives of our autistic children. Let’s work together to create a world that values their unique strengths and supports them in their quest for happiness.
Thank you for reading.
A parent just trying their best.