• Sarah McKim Thomas

Regulation: Why It Matters & Making It Better

My first post on regulation covered what it is and how it can go wrong.

This time, let's focus on why it matters and how to make it better.

What Did Regulation Ever Do For Me? (i.e. Why Bother?)

  • The ability to self-regulate makes learning and social engagement possible. The human brain simply cannot integrate new information or connect with someone else if it's in a dysregulated state.

  • Good regulation makes problem-solving, coping strategies, and supporting others possible. This is especially relevant at this particular point in time:

  • Often what we label "bad behaviors" are occurring due to a lack of self-regulation skills. Conversely, just because a child is "well-behaved", it doesn't mean they have good self-regulation skills. It isn't healthy for a child to maintain "good behavior" only through feelings of fear and anxiety. Children need to learn a variety of self-regulation strategies that don't put them in a constant state of stress.

  • When someone is dysregulated to a significant degree or for too long, bad things can happen: self-injury, meltdowns, etc.

How Can We Improve Regulation?

  • Mutual regulation: a well-regulated partner helping someone else remain regulated

  • Language-based strategies: self-talk, "talking it out", journaling, etc.

  • Mindfulness/calming strategies: breathing exercises (there are so many accessible examples), stretching, meditation, etc.

  • Stimming: believe it or not, it can be functional and beneficial (notice the overlap with sensory and language-based strategies)

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