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  • Sarah

Regulation: What's The Big Deal?

If you've spent any time around autistic communities or educational and therapeutic professionals, you've probably heard the word "regulation" a time or two.


It pops up in a few different contexts:

  • self-regulation

  • emotional regulation

  • sensory regulation

  • dysregulation


What exactly does it mean, though? Most people are familiar with the concept of fight-or-flight, and illustrations like the one below provide a good overview of how a person's regulation can affect their learning and behavior:



You'll notice that this diagram includes both physical/sensory characteristics as well as emotional states. In the human body and brain, the two are inextricably connected. But not everybody is aware of this connection, which has implications for their ability to manage their reactions when their arousal level varies.



What happens when regulation goes wrong?


Let's start with some visual aids:

There are more senses beyond the Big 5 depicted above. Some lesser-known sensory systems include:

Interoception in particular can lead to significant difficulties with recognizing and managing emotions:


Some have started to call this difficulty with recognizing, processing, and discussing emotions alexithymia:



For further reading on the connection between regulation and autism: