The Sun Diagram: Visual choices for tough times

Hello! I am re-posting this due to sharing it with a few people lately…. this is a description of how to use my Sun Diagram to offer visual choices for tough/emotional times for people with autism.

People with autism may need support offered visually and in a choice format (circle rather than a list). It helps to know what options are available in a given situation. If you have a child who may be using one option to regulate (e.g., scream, hit, negative self talk), they might find it helpful to have other options offered visually.

Steps to implement this strategy:

  1. Center yourself so that you are calm, collected, curious and ready to engage with your child
  2. Watch the video for understanding the why behind this strategy
  3. Find a time that is best for you and your child when you are fresh, centered, and able to slow down to connect
  4. Sit down with your child with a blank piece of paper. Tell your child you’d like to talk about something.
  5. Start with a positive scenario (e.g., when I’m happy) and place it in the middle of a circle (e.g., a happy face)
  6. Draw rays of the sun out to the sides. Tell your child that these are things people do when they are feeling this way (e.g., smile, laugh, clap their hands).
  7. When you feel that your child understands the visual AND is calm, collected, and curious…. then you can move to the more negative feelings of anxiety, sadness, etc. but please stay with the positives until your child shows signs of being ready to stay regulated while discussing the harder stuff.
  8. Place the diagram(s) in an easy to access location for your child (e.g., on the refrigerator or on a counter)
  9. Review when NOT in the moment of escalation… good times are BEFORE you head into a situation you think may be challenging or at night to reflect on success using new strategies.
  10. Experiment with what works for YOU and YOUR child. Take the overall ideas of going visual, offering choices in a circle, starting with the positives, and reviewing options to see what works/does not work. You may find that a different visual or process that works for you and your child. That is GREAT! You are the guide and can/should make adjustments as you see fit!
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