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Cherry Tree



  • Staci Neustadt

Understanding Arousal, Energy, and Emotions: Key Differences Explained

Listen here to learn more about arousal vs energy vs emotion in autism.

I'm sure occupational therapists know the answer to this, but as a speech-language pathologist, it's difficult for me to see the difference between Arousal, Energy, and Motions.  I can see an emotion. I can sometimes see if a child can't sit still, but I never know if it is arousal level or energy.

Susan's answer is, "Let's start with arousal levels. If I'm sound asleep I'm not ready to learn.  I'm not aroused if I'm half asleep. I'm not aroused enough to be able to learn, I'm not aroused enough to have any energy. I'm not aroused enough to communicate. Arousal level has to come first. Now you can swing to the opposite where you're so overly aroused. Again, you can't pay attention because you're just so aroused by everything that's happening around you. You're just taking in information, and you can't focus your attention, so arousal level is the first thing you want to look at.

Then, you can look at their energy level. If I'm sitting there slumped in my chair, am I ready to move and act or even talk? Well no, probably not. I'm not going to talk much. I don't have the energy. Well, that's the difference between arousal. I may be mentally aroused but not physically energized, which means I am moving my muscles. Autistics may have such low tone it takes more energy on our part to even just sit up straight and be ready. That takes energy on our part.

The third component was emotion. Emotions come into play primarily from either internal memories or the people around the individual. If I'm in a situation where I know I'm going to be expected and I'm not  ready to attend but they're expecting me to, that situation may trigger  an emotion."

Listen here to learn more about arousal vs energy vs emotion in autism.

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