Managing self regulatory behaviour in young autistic children in the Western Cape, South Africa



Difficulties with self-regulation can impact autistic children’s learning and well-being.

This research paper explores how teachers in South Africa understand and manage self-regulatory behaviors (SRBs) in young autistic children. It discusses the challenges autistic children face in accessing education and the importance of understanding SRBs. The research paper also highlights the need for teacher training and support to help autistic children succeed in school.




The study adopted a qualitative research methodology to gain an in-depth understanding of teachers’ perceptions of self-regulatory behavior in autistic children. The sample comprised six teachers who specialize in teaching autistic children from Autism Specific Schools and inclusive mainstream schools.


self-regulatory behaviors


Self-regulatory behaviors are actions that help people manage their emotions and reactions. For autistic children, SRBs can include repetitive movements, such as hand flapping or spinning. While these behaviors can sometimes be disruptive, they can also serve as a way for autistic children to cope with stress or anxiety.


The importance of understanding SRBs


Teachers play an important role in helping autistic children understand and manage their SRBs. When teachers understand why autistic children engage in certain behaviors, they can develop strategies to help them cope in a positive way.




The study concludes that there is a need for change in the way we perceive and support autistic children. Training programs and professional development are required in schools. Teachers need to adapt the learning environment to manage self-regulatory behavior and recognize neurodivergence.




What is self-regulatory behavior?


Self-regulatory behavior refers to the ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and actions in order to meet the demands of a situation. This can include things like calming down when upset, focusing on a task, and following directions.


Why is self-regulatory behavior important for autistic children?


Autistic children often have difficulty with self-regulatory behavior. This can make it challenging for them to cope with stress, manage their emotions, and learn new things. Self-regulatory skills are also important for helping autistic children build relationships and participate in society.


What are some common self-regulatory challenges faced by autistic children?


Some common self-regulatory challenges faced by autistic children include:

  • Difficulty calming down when upset
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Difficulty transitioning between activities
  • Difficulty expressing needs and wants


What are the challenges faced by teachers in managing self-regulatory behaviour in autistic children?


The study revealed that teachers did not know how to manage the teaching of autistic children as well as adapting the environment for them to learn and be accepted.


How can caregivers help autistic children develop self-regulatory skills?


There are many things that caregivers can do to help autistic children develop self-regulatory skills. These include:

  • Providing a predictable and structured environment
  • Using positive reinforcement
  • Teaching coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or counting to ten
  • Breaking down tasks into small steps
  • Providing clear and concise instructions
  • Offering choices
  • Being patient and understanding



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