Case Study 2: Is your child or student like Mark?

Mark is a 7 year old boy who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He is an only child and enjoys playing with Lego and video games at home. Mark is very strong willed and his parents report that he becomes angry very quickly, sometimes with an unknown trigger or cause. Mark is beginning to throw things at his parents, slam doors and break objects around the house when he is angry. Mark’s teacher reported that he becomes angry at school and tends to clench his fists and disengage with activities, but does not show this kind of aggression at school. His parents came to Learn Sense Grow to help Mark understand his emotions better and control his anger towards his parents. 

The Process:

Mark underwent two terms of Occupational Therapy at his home, as this is where most of the challenges lie. Mark was assessed on his ability to identify his emotions and others, which revealed that Mark can identify basic emotions in himself and others (angry, happy, sad) but had trouble identifying more complex emotions (confused, frustrated, annoyed, surprised, disappointed). The focus of therapy was first on educating him on how to identify these feelings in ourselves and others.

Next, using the Social Thinking® 10 core competencies outlined in an earlier Blog Post, Mark was taught about the ‘size of the problem’. He was taught about small, medium and big problems, and the reaction size that we are ‘expected’ to react to the problem in the same way (small, medium and big reaction sizes). Several real life and example scenarios were worked through in sessions so that Mark understood this well.

After this, Mark learnt about his body and warning signs of anger, frustration, annoyed and disappointed feelings. Using ‘The Zones of Regulation’ framework and methodology, Mark was taught how to identify when he was in each zone and how to help regulate his body when it went into the ‘yellow’ zone to avoid him reaching the ‘red’ zone and having a big reaction. He learnt strategies to regulate through each of these emotions and zones. Both his parents and teachers practised the strategies with Mark when he was calm to ensure that he knew what to do when he began to experience those feelings.

The Occupational Therapist also helped to set up calm or quiet areas in the classroom and home environments, with sensory tools to help Mark calm down. Visual schedules were created around using the quiet spaces to help Mark remember when and how to use the areas.

The benefits:

  • Mark can now identify complex emotions in himself and others.
  • He has developed his self-help strategies to take a break, ask for help, go to his quiet/calm down areas and use his regulation strategies.
  • Mark is starting to identify the size of the problem, and understands that his reaction size is expected to match the problem size.
  • He is able to identify with ‘The Zones of Regulation’ and bring his body back down into the ‘green’ zone so that he can continue participating in activities and other people have ‘good thoughts and feelings’ about him.

The result:

Mark is now using his calming strategies and emotional problem solving at school and home. He is not needing to use his quiet/calm down corner at school anymore, and continues to use it at home to try and avoid aggressive outbursts. Mark is happier that he feels more in control of his emotions, and this has helped him to use his words and strategies in a number of other situations, which has helped him build and maintain good relationships with his peers.