self regulation for student
Personal Development

How To Support Student’s Self Regulation Needs?

Self regulation is kind of like an air conditioner. It’s set to a certain temperature but that’s no easy task – it’s constantly working to make sure the room achieves and maintain that temperature. Most of us have our own self regulation strategies for achieving the cognitive, sensory and emotional states we need to be functioning in the world. Some people aren’t able to regulate themselves successfully and need support to do so.

Why do educators need to know about self regulation?

  • If a student is not able to self regulate then they are not ready to learn. They are too busy trying to manage their emotional, sensory, cognitive issues or physiological to tune into what you’re teaching them.
  • Regulation impacts on student’s ability to make conscious choices. What may look like ‘naughty’ behavior is a child fulfilling a self regulation NEED.
  • There’s no quick fix. Students need constant sensory input to maintain regulation. That looks different for each student.
  • While many students may have self regulation issues it is usually only a concern if it is impacting on their functional ability to learn and behave.
  • Students who struggle to self regulate may be disengaged, angry, apathetic, have a poor self perception or in their own world.
  • They may also have poor memory, attention and concentration, difficulty with problem solving and sequencing, difficulty applying skills to others areas, have poor language skills and be unable to learn from mistakes.
  • Before considering intervention for attention, behavior or learning, we need make sure that children have self regulation strategies.

How do I know if  student in my class has self regulation issues?

Students with sensory self regulation issues may be:

  • fidgeting
  • mouthing
  • non-responsive
  • rocking
  • falling off their chair
  • spinning
  • humming
  • making sounds to drown out noise around them

Students with cognitive self regulation issues may be:

  • wanting to do things their way
  • using things in inappropriate ways
  • missing information
  • demonstrating poor impulse control
  • rigid/stubborn
  • inconsistent

Students with emotional self regulation issues may be:

  • use avoidance tactics
  • complaining
  • frustrated
  • showing separation anxiety
  • unable to listen to others perspectives or negotiate
  • saying ‘no’
  • throwing/hitting
  • aggressive
  • screaming

Students with physiological self regulation issues may be:

  • sick
  • tired
  • too hot or cold
  • needing to toilet
  • needing to eat
  • medically unstable

And guess what? Students might have self regulation issues from one or more of the sensory, cognitive, emotional or physiological areas. Fun, huh?

Jo taught us a LOT about the ins and outs of the different self regulation areas and how they manifest for different children. I highly recommend attending her sessions via Learning 4 All or checking in with her at Kid Sense to learn more.

I already knew I have students in my class who NEEDED support with their self regulation. I was on message. So now what? Aha, that’s when we get to the good stuff.

Read also: How To Prepare Preschoolers for a Classical Education

How do YOU support student’s self regulation needs?

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’

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

For students who have oral sensory needs:

  • chew toys
  • bubble blowing
  • sports bottles
  • chewy tubes
  • whistles
  • straws (for blowing)

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.

Read also: How Can You Help Your Girl Develop Confidence in Her Math Skills?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How can teachers help self-regulation?

For both instructors and pupils, teaching is an emotionally charged activity. It is not only about transmitting knowledge and assisting pupils in improving and learning, but also about promoting good feelings that contribute to learning. Give your pupil a customised diary if they prefer to contribute a lot of additional information during a class session.In the journal, they may record all of their questions, ideas, and connections. Make it a point to sit down with the kid once or twice a day to go through the diary and hear what they have to say.

Mindfulness enables a young person to pay careful attention to a situation without passing judgement and to breathe deeply. This works well for classroom conduct and anxiety because it gives the kid agency in the circumstance, allowing them to take a minute and then choose to participate in their own time. Begin tasks requiring repeated activity, such as identifying things of a certain hue and counting something. Ask your pupils to visualise a place where they have previously felt particularly peaceful using guided imagery. Tell them that if they are upset or anxious, they may shut their eyes and ‘go there.’

What is the importance of self regulation in education?

Over the past decade, self regulation has become a more prominent subject in medical education. Self-regulation is important not just during the academic years, but also after students graduate and begin working as physicians in the real world. It is becoming more crucial for students to be able to actively analyse and enhance their own learning. In a fast changing environment, successful people must be lifelong learners who are metacognitive about their learning and can successfully assess it.

Students who lack the capacity to concentrate their attention and persevere will be dragged left and right by their initial inclinations inside the educational system. Self-regulation is used by successful individuals and learners to complete tasks successfully and efficiently. They will regulate several techniques and evaluate their performance while analysing and deciding on the next line of action. In general, effective learners use several types of self-regulation. Self-regulation instruction is often focused towards students who are not already adopting such skills and, as a result, are not succeeding in educational environments.

What are some examples of self-regulation activities?

There are several activities that may be used to teach your kid self-regulation. It is critical for children to learn how to control their emotions and bodies. Considering your behaviours and how they effect others is an important aspect of growing up, and happily, there is an entertaining method to practise.

Simon Says – To help your children develop self-regulation skills, you may play entertaining games like Simon Says. Any game that encourages youngsters to regulate their impulses and movements may help them gain control over their own ideas, emotional reactions, and behaviours.

Body Part Mix Up – The leader will name out bodily parts for the child to touch. For example, when the leader says “knees,” the children touch their knees. To begin, make one rule. Touch your toes instead of your head every time the leader says “head.” This challenges the youngsters to pause and reflect about their actions rather than just reacting. “Knees, head, elbow,” says the leader. The youngsters should make contact with their knees, TOES, and elbows. Continue practising and incorporating new rules to shift body parts.

Self-Control Bubbles – You will need bubbles for this game. This is an excellent opportunity to sit down as a group and explore what self-regulation entails. What it feels like and how it seems. First, you blast the bubbles and let the kids burst them as quickly as they can. You want to keep blowing bubbles until they are all burst. However, kids are not permitted to pop any of them this time. It’s a terrific graphic for a discourse about the sensation of wanting to do something but having to hold back.


I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It