Psychologist Carla Mezefsky, PhD dives into the intricate relationship between emotional  regulation (ER) and autism to highlight current research findings as well as gaps in understanding and treatment applications. She outlines her collaborative research focused on the timeline and physiological parameters associated with ER to provide contemporary intervention and self-regulatory methods.

In this presentation:

16:55 – Current evidence-based treatments

28:00 – ABCD emotional regulation strategy

30:00 – Signs of Distress Timeline

40:13 – Ongoing treatment research

44:40 – Q&A/Stud enrollment info


Emotion regulation (ER) refers to the handling and modifying of emotional reaction intensity and duration. Individuals who struggle with ER have issues with aggression, meltdowns, or other problem behaviors (5:40) in response to an inability to regulate emotion. Generally, these problem behaviors are an attempt to alleviate distress from ER issues. ER treatments aim to develop a more adaptive and appropriate response to distressing situations via increased emotional awareness and understanding. 

The presenter makes two critical distinctions:

  1. ER issues occur when an individual does not have the regulatory capacity or skills to control emotional reactions. (8:15) — these are not temper tantrums or manipulative behaviors.
  2. ER is concerned with more than the “moment of meltdown” (30:00)

Individuals on the spectrum are at high risk (9:45) of ER issues as many core ASD symptoms and proven differences in brain function are understood to trigger challenges with emotional control (11:17). Further research has shown ER issues prove more reliable than ASD symptom severity in predicting increased anxiety and depression (14:30) as well as hospitalizations and emergency room visits (15:30)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most effective evidence-based ER treatment available and focuses on understanding the connection between emotions and thoughts. Although CBT is evidence-based, almost all studies focus solely on anxiety issues. By contrast, most individuals on the spectrum present with multiple conditions, making it challenging to apply CBT in real-time.


Free certificates of participation are available upon successful completion of a brief knowledge quiz online at:

Published: 02/07/2018

Dr. Carla Mazefsky is a licensed clinical psychologist specialized in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Dr. Mazefsky was the 2012 recipient of the Ritvo/Slifka Award for Innovation in Autism Research from the International Society for Autism Research. She is the associate editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and is a past member of the Board of Directors for the Western PA Chapter of Autism Speaks. Dr. Mazefsky’s research has been funded by the Organization for Autism Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Her program of research is focused on emotional dysregulation in ASD, including the identification of underlying neural mechanisms, the conceptualization, treatment, and assessment of problems with emotional control, and co-occurring depression and anxiety. While most of her research to date has focused on high-functioning adolescents with ASD, she is expanding to more of a lifespan perspective, and is now conducting research on psychiatric inpatients with ASD as part of a multisite study to better understand and improve outcomes for those most severely affected by the disorder.

Understanding Social Development in ASD

June 25th, 2019|Adults on the Spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Challenging Behaviors, Educational Therapies, Infants, Social Skills, Webinar|

Dr. Matthew D. Lerner, Ph.D., discusses social development in individuals with autism. He emphasizes understanding theoretical mechanisms that underly processes generally accepted as social “skills.” The presenter outlines recent findings and discusses their implication