Emotion regulation is an ongoing multiprocess phenomenon and is a challenging developmental task to acquire in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have different neurobiological profiles and emotion regulation problems. The purpose of this paper is to review recent literature to understand the neurobiological and psychological perspective of emotion regulation in ASD, while converging themes of psychosocial interventions and existing best practices on emotion regulation within this heterogeneous population are reviewed and discussed in consideration of intellectual disability (ID).
Review of recent literature and common empirically supported interventions addressing emotional regulation implemented in individuals with and without ASD, and with and without ID were included in the electronic database search through PubMed, EBSChost, Science Direct, Wiley Online Library, GALE and SAGE. Search terms used included autism, ID, cognitive control, executive function, sensory processing/intervention, emotion regulation, cognitive behavior therapy, mindfulness, social stories, positive behavior support and behavior therapy.
Neural systems governing emotion regulation can be divided into “top-down” and “bottom-up” processing. Prefrontal cortex, cognitive and attentional control are critical for effective emotion regulation. Individuals with ASD, and with ID show impairments in these areas have problems with emotion regulation. Targeted psychosocial intervention need to consider bottom-up and top-down processes of emotion regulation, and that standardized interventions require adaptations.
There are limited studies looking into understanding the neurobiological and psychological perspective of emotion regulation in ASD and linking them to interventions. This review highlights psychosocial interventions that are important for further research, investigation and development as treatment in this population is limited.