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Release: Reducing Stress in an Instant

by Jo Hainsworth

Stones piled on a beach

The Davis Release tool is so simple and yet so empowering. The purpose of Release is to give an individual the ability to manage their stress and anxiety levels in a quick and easy way. I am an autist with complex PTSD, and I have over the years learnt many self-regulation tools. None of them have come close to Release in terms of empowering me, and I believe it’s because of two factors:

  1. It’s super simple to learn and do

  2. It can be done eyes open in the middle of a stressful situation or conversation

Here’s a couple of examples of times when I’ve used this tool, to give you a sense of how powerful it can be:

  • I was learning to drive a vehicle that weighs twice what my car does, and I failed to anticipate the impact of that on doing a hill start. I unfortunately discovered that on my first drive, with a big truck right behind me and me stalling three times in a row! Instead of panicking, I kept doing Release over and over, until I was able to really hear what my partner was saying about how I needed to give it more revs than in the car, because of the weight of the vehicle. I successfully made the hill start and turn, much to both my relief and no doubt the relief of the truck driver behind me (not to mention my wonderfully patient partner!!!)

  • After successfully doing something I was very nervous about but determined to do anyway, I went to share my jubilation with my partner. After doing so I experienced a major inner critic attack, with the voice in my head telling me how pathetic I was to celebrate something most people could just do. I realised that my energy levels were too high (from my nervousness) and did several Releases to calm myself back down. Thankfully that quieted my rather nasty inner critic.

If you would like to learn this tool, the optimal way is to work one-on-one with a trained Davis facilitator, so you can learn it as part of the suite of self-regulation and other tools. However if that isn’t possible for you right now, Ron Davis’ book The Gift of Learning gives detailed instructions on how to practice Release. While this book doesn’t address autism specifically, all the tools included for managing ADD/ADHD are also generally helpful for autists. This book also includes scripts that enable someone to read you through the orientation process, and pairing Release with Orientation is the most empowering way to use it.


Release can also be accessed in several other ways:

  • It is outlined in the Davis Stepping Stones manual and can be purchased in the store.

  • It is covered in-depth during the transformational Davis Autism and Concepts for Life Workshops, which can be attended by parents, caregivers, educators, therapists, and autistic individuals looking for self-development.

  • It is also available in the ‘Tools for Helper’ audio package from the store.

A man relaxing
Release - a Davis Self Regulation tool

If you are a parent, I highly recommend learning Release to help you to stay regulated in times when your child is dysregulated, which will in turn help them with co-regulation and finding a safe space. As Release is very simple, you could also introduce it to your child after modeling them for a while. If I’d known Release as a child, it would have given me an alternative to coping strategies which, while they did help me get through life, weren’t optimal; and later on became counter-productive. If you are an adult autist who does not have a tool to self-regulate rapidly on the fly, I highly recommend learning Release for yourself.


I am so, so thankful for having discovered the Davis Autism Approach.

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