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Managing Mornings for Parents and Teachers: 10 Strategies to Promote Self-Regulation and Calming

Updated: Apr 19

10 Strategies to promote self-regulation

Self-regulation is a critical skill that enables children to adapt their arousal, alertness, and attention to meet the demands of different environments. It involves accurately reading cues and responding appropriately. Sensory modulation, which is affected by a child's sensitivity and response patterns to sensory input, can greatly impact a child's ability to regulate their behavior. Children who over- or under-respond to sensory input may struggle to regulate their behavior and respond with fight, flight, or freeze reactions and have a meltdown. In contrast, a well-regulated child can maintain a quiet, alert state throughout the day and transition smoothly between different activities.

4 basic principles:

  1. Always ask for permission before touching a child.

  2. Use clear and concise language when giving instructions

  3. Provide clear beginnings and endings to activities

  4. Establish consistent routines.

As Meryl Samuels Turner (ASD Nest Program, NY Doe) said, “When in doubt… prop it out.”

The most effective way to promote self-regulation is through heavy work to ground and organize a child's nervous system. Heavy work consists of resistive activities that provide proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles and deep touch pressure through the skin.

10 strategies for parents to promote self-regulation:

  1. Rearranging heavy items (water bottles and cans) in the pantry

  2. Unloading the wet laundry

  3. Bear hugs

  4. Turn your child into a burrito

  5. Create a tunnel out of your legs and have your child squeeze through

  6. Wheelbarrow walking

  7. Animal walks

  8. “Wrestling with rules”

  9. Chewing gum

  10. Sit on a yoga ball for meals, homework, and commercials

10 strategies for teachers to promote self-regulation:

  1. Chair push-ups

  2. Make the room bigger (wall "push-ups")

  3. Classroom jobs that involve heavy work, such as delivering books or moving furniture

  4. Adapted seating

  5. Chewy food like bagels, granola bars, or gum

  6. Sports top water bottle

  7. Thera bands around chair legs

  8. Singing loudly

  9. Encouraging heavy work during playground activities, such as digging, riding tricycles, or going up and down the slide

  10. Fidget toy on a carabiner

In addition to down-regulating, providing targeted sensory input in the correct "dosage" is also important in promoting alertness and attention, also known as up-regulating. Before activities that require attention, such as circle time or homework, parents and teachers can provide alerting input in an organized manner to help children ramp up their attention.

3 strategies for parents to promote up-regulation:

  1. Crunchy snacks such as pretzels, apples, carrots, or nuts

  2. Bounce on a yoga ball or a "sit 'n' move" cushion instead of a chair, with feet resting on the floor

  3. A 5-10 minute intense workout with a clear beginning and end, including stride jumps, jumping jacks, jumping on a trampoline, or running in place

3 additional strategies for teachers to promote up-regulation:

  1. “Popcorn Game”

  2. “Shake Your Sillies Out;” Freeze dancing

  3. Stop/start games like musical scarves or red-light-green-light

By incorporating both down-regulating and up-regulating strategies into daily routines, parents and teachers can help children develop the self-regulation skills necessary to navigate different environments and activities.

If you have concerns about your child's development, behavior, or ability to participate in daily activities, consider reaching out to a pediatric occupational therapist for an evaluation.

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