The aim of self regulation is the ability to adjust their level of alertness which encompasses managing our arousal level, energy state, emotions and behaviours to attain goals in a social adaptive way. This state of being supports focus, attention and active participation and overall goal acquisition. When your body is in a neurological space where your whole being (brain and body) can maintain a calm, alert state, this sets up one’s internal environment to learn and participate within their environment given the task or occupation they are participating. Self regulation includes three critical neurological components:

  • sensory processing,
  • executive functioning
  • emotional regulation. (Kuypers, L., 2011 p.3)

Executive functioning is the cognitive process involved in the conscious control of thoughts and actions. Executive function skills such as inhibitory control, working memory and cognitive flexibility are necessary. When these cognitive pathways function optimally it makes problem solving smoother and prepares one to be able to face hurdles that they meet. Emotional regulation is the ability to control our emotions including the ability to monitor, evaluate and modify the intensity and timing of an emotional response. For todays’ world regulating our emotions we need to have objectivity (determining the size of the challenge), motivation and understanding other peoples perspectives (ability to put one’s self in another’s shoes). (Kuypers, L., 2011) A child needs to learn the language behind the emotions and be in touch the unique sensations within their body for cues to how their body might be feeling.

It allows us to be able to respond to a situation rather than react

Sensory processing is an unconscious process where the brain organises one’s sensations for use in learning to participate in every day life within their environment. We have 8 senses; tactile, auditory, smell, vision, taste, proprioceptive, vestibular and interception. Information from these sensation need to be detected, organised and filtered by the brain.  This allows us to produce an adaptive response (responding to a situation in a purposeful manner; Sam is riding a bike and goes over a bump and has to shift their body position to avoid falling). When a child’s brain can detect organise and filter the information, this creates the underlying foundation for academic learning and social behaviour however when the flow of sensations are disrupted a child may become disorganised or dis-regulation. This means they might have to concentrate so much harder than a peer to block out the sound of a ticking clock, smell of a waste basket or feeling of a tag in their clothing and this will impact their performance during tasks, focus and ability to respond rather than quick reaction. (Ayres,A.J., 2005)

Ayres, A. J., (2005) Sensory Integration and the Child: Understanding hidden sensory challenges. Revised Ed. Ch 1 (pp. 3-12) Western Psychological Services.

Brackett, M., (2019) Permission to Feel: The power of emotional intelligence to achieve well-being and success. Celadon Books, New York.

Mahler, K., (2019) The Interoception Curriculum: A step-by-step framework for developing mindful self-regulation. USA.

Kuypers, L., (2011) The Zones of Regulation: A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control. Social Thinking Publishing Inc. Santa Clara, CA.