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Arousal and Behavioral Regulation in Children with Autism

Arousal and Behavioral Regulation in Children with AutismArousal and Behavioral Regulation in Children with Autism

Problematic emotional behavior as expressed in tantrums, irritability, aggression, self-injury, anxiety, and impulsivity is often seen in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders published research comparing the physiological arousal and behavioral regulation of emotion in the context of frustration in 29 children with ASD and 45 typically developing children (41–81 months).  The researchers monitored each participants heart rate continuously and emotion strategies were coded, during a locked-box task.

The results indicated the following:

  • heart rate monitoring showed increases in arousal followed by a decline during recovery in both groups
  • heart rate patterns between groups were identical
  • children with ASD used less constructive and more venting and avoidance strategies, which was related to language impairments

The researchers concluded that young children with ASD may not have abnormal levels of emotional arousal, but perhaps difficulties in behaviorally regulating and expressing experienced emotions to others.

Reference:  Zantinge, G., van Rijn, S., Stockmann, L., & Swaab, H. (2017). Physiological Arousal and Emotion Regulation Strategies in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1-10.

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Arousal and Behavioral Regulation in Children with Autism