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Pediatric Services

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Self-Regulation: A Learned Skill By Tamara Hollenback, Director of Occupational Therapy, Seashore Pediatric Therapy Center.

Does your child have difficulty with self-control? Poor impulse control? Seem to be more emotionally reactive, quick to anger, or have limited coping skills to manage his/her behaviors compared to other children the same age? We may be able to help! Our occupational therapists at Seashore Pediatric Therapy Center are trained in The Zones of Regulation program. This is a curriculum, designed by Occupational Therapist Leah M. Kuypers, to help children learn self-regulation skills. The program can be introduced and adapted for children as young as four years old and implemented for school-age children and teenagers as well. The Zones of Regulation curriculum can help all children who struggle with emotional and behavioral management, including those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety disorder. This program breaks down complex social learning skills using a color-coded system designed to assist children in developing emotional awareness and coping strategies. So what is self-regulation anyway? Self-regulation means being in control of your mind and your body in order to make good choices. Self-regulation is the ability to control your emotions, impulses, and reactions in a way that best fits a specific situation. Self-regulation helps us do what we need to do throughout the day by adjusting our level of alertness depending upon the situation and setting. Self-regulation involves monitoring and controlling one’s own feelings, emotions, and behaviors. In order to do so, a person has to have the ability to block out irrelevant stimuli, control impulses, and persist in tasks. Therefore, intact sensory processing is a crucial and foundational building block to self-regulation. Occupational therapists are in a unique position to help address selfregulation difficulties because they are trained to assess and address the underlying skills that are impacting self-regulation development, especially in terms of sensory processing. Sensory processing is the ability to take in sensations (sights, sounds, smells, taste, touch, pressure, movement) from the external environment as well as internally

from within the body, process the sensations accurately, and then respond in a socially appropriate way in order to perform daily activities. It requires the nervous system to take in messages from the senses and turn them into outwardly observed behaviors and responses. When sensory processing isn’t working correctly, the sensory information is going into the brain; however, once there, the signals may get mixed up, create a traffic jam, and are not organized properly. This is the actual “processing” part of sensory processing that is impaired. As a result, a person may experience a wide variety of defensive and compensatory behaviors and emotional responses that do not appropriately match the context or social setting that the person is in. People with sensory processing difficulties are often too sensitive to stimulation or not sensitive enough. This results in a dysregulated sense of self and a poor understanding of one’s environment. This dysregulation makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for children to feel safe and comfortable and to function and behave appropriately during social or learning opportunities. Appropriate sensory processing and self-regulation develops naturally over time with experience and maturity, but for some children it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. This is where The Zones of Regulation comes in. The overall goal of the curriculum is to help kids (and adults too) learn to expand their emotional vocabulary and to create a greater understanding and recognition of these emotions in themselves. The hallmark component of the program is the use of various visuals and the categorization of all the different ways we feel, including different states of alertness and behaviors, into four colored zones – Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. The program then expands to help children learn tools and strategies to help manage their feelings and states of alertness. Sensory regulation tools, calming techniques, and cognitive strategies are combined to help kids match the appropriate emotions, behaviors, and level of alertness to the situation and environment they are in. The Zones of Regulation curriculum emphasizes that there are no “good” or “bad” zones. It encourages kids to describe and recognize all of their emotions while helping them understand that different “Zones” are expected or unexpected depending upon the situation. Overall, The Zones of Regulation is an effective, interactive, and, most of all, fun way to learn these critical emotional, behavioral, and social awareness skills. If you have any of these sensory or behavioral concerns for your child or would like to discuss The Zones of Regulation program further, do not hesitate to contact one of our Certified Occupational Therapists at Seashore Pediatric Therapy Center in one of our two locations – Manahawkin or Toms River.

Toms River: 950 Hooper Ave  • Unit 2  Toms River, NJ 08753 848-251-5355

The County Woman Magazine www.TheCountyWoman.com

Manahawkin: 230 Division Street Manahawkin, NJ 08050 609-607-7400 July/August 2019

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The County Woman ™ is part of a nationally syndicated publication and has been around for over 31 years. There are over 371 other counties t...

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The County Woman ™ is part of a nationally syndicated publication and has been around for over 31 years. There are over 371 other counties t...