Supporting students’ self regulation

Supporting Students' Self Regulation - Octavia and Vicky

**This post continues on from my reflection on learning about Self Regulation at a Learning 4 All conference with Jo Buttfield, from Kid Sense – a private provider of Occupational Therapy And Speech Pathology based in Adelaide, Australia. Read the original post here**

I learned a lot from the Learning for All workshop. Let’s not mention the fact that it’s over a year since I attended and I’m just now picking up where I left off. It was a really useful session and I don’t want to lose what I learned. Here goes!

When planning to support children with their self regulation teachers and parents should consider booking an appointment with an occupational therapist (OT).  OTs can prescribe students with a ‘sensory diet’ – a range of strategies to support that child’s particular needs.

However, educators can try many strategies without OT support, based on their observations of the child and discussions with their family. The one big key to all of this is that ANY INTERVENTION MUST ALSO BE SUPPORTED AT HOME for any meaningful success to be achieved. Parents and educators need to work together, along with OTs and other professionals.

Jo describes the sensory diet to kids as ‘finding the right fuel for your body’. What do you need to make it work?

  • For students who need touch:
    • try ‘brushing’ (you’re going to need an OT for help on that… I googled it but it’s complicated)
    • finding words/letters/numbers in beans/rice or other tactile materials
    • writing on clear perspex with liquid chalk to get that ‘smooth’ tactile input
    • drawing and painting
    • shaving cream
    • play dough
    • and any number of ‘fidget toys’ available from online shops

  • For students who need movement:
    • swings
    • crash mats
    • activities that involve lots of bumping into others (safely!)
    • digging
    • carrying (water/dirt)
    • setting up spaces for movement using masking tape or hoops in the classroom (e.g. star jumps, run on the spot, hop)
    • theratubing tied to chair legs for pressure/resistence
    • scooter boards
    • textured cushions
    • vibrating toys
    • chair push ups
    • running up stairs
    • playing on the play ground
    • obstacle course
    • other equipment available from online shops
  • For students who have oral sensory needs:
    • chew toys
    • bubble blowing
    • sports bottles
    • chewy tubes
    • whistles
    • straws (for blowing)
    • some available online
  • For students who need visual regulation
    • activities which narrow visual attention eg. hunting through a page of text for a particular word
    • glowing and spinning fans
    • light up toys
    • mazes
    • pop up tents with a torch (for reading)
    • iPads
    • a hole in a piece of card to focus attention when reading
  • For students who need aural regulation
    • noise cancelling headphones/ear muffs
    • music
    • chewing (reduces sound)
    • place them away from noisy doorways, teachers and fans/heaters
    • gradually increase sound tolerance over time with games, eg. music games where they are in control of the volume

The bottom line is that we need to give these kids what they need or they will find it in inappropriate ways anyway! Movement is one of the most likely sensory inputs to work for most children – it helps alert kids use energy and helps lethargic kids become alert.

Our regulation is SO important: regulation is contagious. The more controlled we are as educators the better the students’ regulation is going to be.

This is not an all-inclusive guide to self regulation, not by a long shot. This is just some of what I learned on one PD day and what I found most relevant to my situation in an early years classroom. To learn more about self regulation, try these links:

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