Emotional Dysregulation: Neurologically Gifted

Emotional Dysregulation-Just like Regular Kids but “Only More So!”

A very dear friend and expert special educator insists that kids who have neurological disorder are just like regular kids-

only more-so!”


Let me explain what that confusing statement means…
Kids who have neurological disorders have feelings just like everyone else, except their feelings are so much more intense. They feel so much more of everything. They experience more joy when happy, (hence their hyperactivity), they feel more pain when injured (we think they’re over-reacting), more anger when frustrated or disappointed (leading to rage) and more sadness (also misinterpreted as over-reacting).

Emotional Dysregulation:  Neurologically GiftedThis evening, my stepson erupted into a fit of screaming and pounding the floor in a rage over homework, to total recovery and calm. Soon after, he collapsed into a heap of tears as he suddenly recalled the death of his grandmother the previous year. The intense grief lasted about 2 minutes, and he recovered once again, to join his friends in playing basketball.
I shouldn’t be surprised by his behaviour tonight. He was bound to fall from perfection at some point. He’s been stable and even tempered for months – and it’s due to consistency at home and at school.

Kids with neurological disorders are incredibly susceptible to change, as we all are –

“only more so!”

Change has an affect on us all, to varying degrees. Some people abhor surprises, which is just another name for change. Kids with neuro-chemical disorders often fall apart in these circumstances that arise from change.

Emotional dysregulation can be observed as intense or extreme emotional responses to a situation, aggression, impulsivity, avoiding behaviours, difficulty calming themselves and difficulty knowing what emotion they are actually feeling and especially, drastic changes in mood.

My stepson’s chemistry and subsequent emotional state is totally dysregulated today for any number of reasons. From my own personal Tourette experience, I know he could be
unconsciously reacting to the onset of the Canadian winter – with a reduction of daylight hours and cold temperatures. This always messed me up. It still does, sometimes. When his chemistry is thrown into flux like this, Nathan’s behaviour is irratic and (almost) manic. He can swing from one extreme mood to another. As well, he is dealing with another ill family member. Although he seems calm, he is very prone to experiencing a quick thought of concern, then bursting into tears from a memory of his late grandmother.

By keeping Nathan’s life consistent, we greatly reduce the occurrence of mood swings and emotional dysregulation. At times of change, it is important to stay connected to any consistency and predicability you can find. For example, on a trip during the holidays, we can expect Nathan to be extremely dysregulated and prone to mood swings.

His normal routine of waking, going to school, coming home and going to bed ceases.
In these cases, we keep eating and bed times consistent. We maintain sleep hygiene so he can slowly unwind and fall asleep at a reasonable time using his normal bedtime routine.
We give him ample warning of the plan of each day with frequent recaps and updates to give him time to process the upcoming schedule and reduce over reaction when the changes happen.  Rules must be kept consistent, as well.  There are no exceptions such as, “just this one time”, or “it’s the holiday”.  There is no “flying by the seat of our pants” with our Nathan.

Keeping Calm

Meltdowns from emotional dysregulation can be minimized by maintaining routines, mazimizing predicability, planning ahead, advanced warning of change and consistent rules.
For the times when dysregulation occurs, (and it will), it is helpful to keep in mind that kids with neurological differences actually do feel more, and they will respond more.  They are just like regular kids –

“Only More So!”

Our very dear friend and educator who inspired our “Only More So!” article on Emotional Dysregulation…

For a list of more Neurologically Gifted Articles:  CLICK HERE!

Promote understanding by educating others.  Promote tolerance through understanding.  Please share.

4 thoughts on “Emotional Dysregulation-Just like Regular Kids but “Only More So!””

  1. This article was a huge eye opener for me & I thank you for that. My 9yr old daughter Bailee, suffers from TS Plus. I have noticed these huge emotional changes in her & what seems like magnified responses to normal emotions. I have always thought that her bigger than normal response to things must have tie into her Neuro issues, but wasn’t sure, till I read this. It explains her to a tee!!! Thank you so much for writing this & giving this Mom some much needed information & reinforcement that her behavior & reactions to things, are right in line, as they should be. And also, for giving me some guidance & help on how to help her!!

  2. I wish I had known about this camp when I was younger. It probably would have been perfect for me. Though I don’t regret going to my other summer camp of course.
    I have Tourette Syndrome, OCD, and ADD.
    Thank you for this article and thank you Denise for founding Camp Winston. Thank you so much!

  3. From my family history of predisposition to neurological sensitivity, it appears that often emotional dysregulation in children is a sign of the regression that accompanies High Functioning Autism. One of the difficulties with parenting in HFA families is that parents often have the same neurological sensitivity, and tend to either “smother” or “bully” the child unconsciously. This is typical parental behavior of High Functioning Autism. Parents tend to use authoritarian behaviorism since they did not learn skills to validate their children. Because HFA parents often function in depersonalized dissociation with emotional detachment, children have difficulty with attachment. The “mind blindness” of ASD parents, as well as their conditioned childhood coping of Avoidance, Denial, and Dissociation causes children in these families to suffer chronic traumatic stress. Those of us who are HFA and grew up in families with HFA parents can recognize that High Functioning Autism is the same condition as PTSD. Parents in these families will not reach out for help because they do not recognize the dysfunctional dynamics of the coping of “adult children”. Children who have HFA often go unrecognized in the school environment because intelligent children develop sophisticated coping strategies at an early age that can mask their anxiety. Dissociation often becomes their normal way of coping. Because personality disorders of the B Cluste on the DSM V are recognized to accompany HFA in adulthood, and because symptoms of these personality disorders are now recognized as common in mainstream society of the US, we can conclude that HFA, PTSD, and personality disorders are more common than most realize.

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