Whilst we can’t control our emotions or stop how we’re feeling, we can learn how to manage our emotions.

The strategies I share with you are to help the individual take ownership of their emotions and behaviours, and learn how to act accordingly. They can be used by the individual when they start to notice the emotions that trigger certain behaviours. But it’s important to understand that for this to happen, the individual must be calm and focussed.

The key is to teach the individual to notice their emotions and triggers and take action.

However, there will still be times when you should intervene and take the individual to their safe space and work through an activity with them. By knowing the individual’s triggers, body language, behaviour, vocabulary and tone of voice, you’ll know when they’re reaching the brewing state, the frustrated level – what I call the yellow state (based on the traffic light system).

They might say the word ‘angry’ at which point say: ‘Are you feeling angry? Shall we go and do pasta or rice play? Shall we go to the safe space?’ You may need to show the individual a visual of the safe space, or of the pasta or rice. Always use the key words or visuals that work best for the individual.

As I’ve said before, a safe place is not just for the difficult times. It needs to be a positive space too. A space where they can read, do an activity, do tapping, squeezes, and so on.

In this blog, I wanted to share another generic fun activity, similar to the pasta activity I shared with you earlier, but this time using rice. It’s another way of helping the individual to focus and lower themselves into a calmer state. Like the pasta activity, the rice one is based on colours. (To colour the rice, simply mix it in a bowl with some food colouring – I will always use red, yellow and green – and then spread it out on a tray to dry. You can use this coloured rice over and over again.)

As with the pasta activity, put the coloured rice into separate cups or tubs that the individual can then transfer into red, yellow and green cups or onto red, yellow and green paper. The individual may prefer to pour the rice or use a spoon.

If the individual needs to release energy, place the coloured cups or coloured paper on a surface at the other end of the room and ask them to take the red rice to the red cup or paper. They may want to run so you could make it a race: ‘Ready, steady, go!’ Make sure you have enough space before doing this; if space is limited, do star jumps instead to help release the energy.

After each cup of coloured rice has been poured into the corresponding coloured cup or placed on the coloured paper, always say: ‘Well done, that’s finished’ and then remove the used cups, paper and rice before moving onto the next colour.

If you’re using spoons, the individual may want to use the same spoon to transfer each cup of different coloured of rice. They may wish to have three different spoons in which case you could colour code the spoons. Work with the individual and what is best for them.

Some individuals like to pour quickly but this can raise behaviour levels. If necessary, bring them back by using a calm voice and say: ‘Good pouring, well done’. Breathe calmly and deeply.

If the individual enjoys pouring the rice, let them pour it from one cup to another repeatedly for around 30 seconds. Inhaling when they lift the cup and exhaling when they pour the rice allows 7/11 breathing. Always say: ‘Well done’ once the rice has been poured.

These generic activities should be modified for your individual client. It’s important that you implement strategies that work for the individual.