Self-Regulation is fundamental to supporting Autistic kids. Self-Reg is the work of Dr Stuart Shanker. A guru in decreasing anxiety in populations of students that you and I teach. But what’s it all about? Keep reading for an introduction to Self-Reg and grab yourself some templates to start working with today.
Self-Regulation – What is that?
Self-Reg is a frame-work by Dr Stuart Shanker. You can read more from Stuart on the topic here. He is ‘the man’ when it comes to lowering stress in anxious students. Self-regulation is how a child or adult, deals with stress and how they recover afterward. In Shanker’s framework it begins with a reframing of how we consider students exhibiting stress.
Are they really a bad child?
The answer to this question is ‘No’. No child is bad however there are many children who are stressed. The reframing of Shanker’s system begins with us, the adults. We need to change our thinking to acknowledge that the child is not a bad child, they are a stressed child. This re:thinking is important in the way we address the child in front of us. When we think of a ‘bad’ child we think punish. When we reframe to a stressed child we think helping.
What are the steps to Shanker’s Self-Regulation system?
There are 5 aspects to the Self-Reg system
- notice the stress and reframe the behavior – why is the behavior happening
- recognise the stressors – what is contributing? Why now?
- lower the stress – add to, remove or tweak something to lower stress
- reflect – what can you do to adjust stressors for the future – very hard for many Autistic and young children. This is where adults need to Co-Regulate until the child/person is able to Self-Regulate.
- restore energy – what can you do to build up reserves?
The 5 Stress Domains
Stuart Shanker suggests that there are 5 Domains that create stress. He lists them as follows:
- The Biological Domain – hungry, thirsty, need toilet, toothache, sensory-noisey, too bright, too busy
- The Cognitive Domain – hard, easy, no way to communicate so can’t advocate, don’t understand instruction
- The Emotion Domain – big emotions; over excited, fearful, angry, sad, love
- The Social Domain – student too close, change of teacher/school/house, group work, difficulty understanding behavior of others OR, others not understanding the Autistic viewpoint (double empathy)
- The Prosocial Domain – taking on the emotions of others, challenges coping with the stress(ors) of others
What can I do immediately to better support children to Self-Regulate
(1) The first step to support children is to ensure that as the adult, we are regulated. What can you do to identify and lower stress in your life? What actions can you take to lower stress in the moment and lead as a role model for children? In the moment; three breaths is a fantastic start. It lowers adrenaline and calms the heart.
(2) Respond instead of react. Taking 3 deep breaths allows time to consider the ‘why’ and ‘why now’ part of the process. That means you can take in the immediate setting and make a quick adjustment to the current environment. For some strategies to support in Special Ed read here.
(3) Routinely teaching our students some in the moment strategies to calm can help too. Daily (or more) opportunities to deep breathe is fantastic so that in the future when they need too, they can draw on that skill. Make it visual. Try putting on calm music and blowing bubbles with students. Do some squeezing hands and perhaps shoulder rolling and/or arm stretches.
(4) Read some emotion books together and label emotions within activities
(5) Last and most important, build on positive relationships with students.
Resources to support
- Book – Self-Reg Stuart Shanker with Teresa Barker
- Book – Calm Alert and Learning – Stuart Shanker and Susan Hopkins (has a free audio only version under resources on the Self-reg website when you join the Co-Reg Community under resources
- Book – Beyond Behavior – Mona Delahooke
- website – Self-reg.ca Join a course; delve in deeper to learning on the blog; download some great resources
- website and Facebook – Autism Level Up – some great resources
Next Steps – Podcast and Freebie
You can hear more about this topic on Dawn Ellis’s fabulous podcast Be the Exception which I am guesting on this week. Dawn is a fellow special educator and you can find her on the podcast and at Instagram and Facebook under Cultivating Exceptional Minds.
I have a put together a download for you to access to get you started on your Self-Reg journey. It has the highlights from Self-Reg. An example of what to look for when completing the Biological Domain, a blank template for you to complete to assess your class; and a Template for you to complete your own Self-Reg Reflection.
Click the link below or pop your name in the subscriber box on this page.
Until next time …