What Is Self Regulation and How Can OTs Help?

Children experience ups and downs on a regular basis when they're attempting to manage their frustrations and feelings. A child can experience discomfort or stress when responding to new environments and changes, but parents, teachers and occupational therapists can act as "emotional coaches" as they help kids respond to situations accordingly. They can help them manage their behaviors and feelings better, which is referred to as pediatric self-regulation.

What Is Self-Regulation for Kids?

Self-regulation or emotional regulation is the child's ability of adjusting and controlling their:

  • Emotions
  • Energy level
  • Attention
  • Behaviors

Appropriate cognitive regulation suggests this control and adjustment is performed in a manner that's socially acceptable.

How Can a Pediatric Occupational Therapist Help?

There are ways OT's can help children with self-regulation, including:

1. Sensory Activities

This helps offer bodily sensory feedback enabling better sensory regulation. You might include the following activities:

  • Animal walks
  • Wheelbarrow walking
  • Cycling
  • Trampolining
  • Weighted items (heavy blanket while sleeping or wheat bag on lap while sitting)
  • Wearing a heavy backpack
  • Chewy toys

2. Sensory Processing

Using therapeutic intervention to enhance the child's proper and efficient sensory stimulation response.

3. Narrowly Focused Activities

These include things like categorizing, sorting and organizing tasks (i.e. card games like Blink, Snap or Uno).

4. Role Playing

Helps to address potential situations to teach effective and appropriate ways to interact and act.

5. Discrete Skills

Tasks that have a defined beginning and end point like mazes, construction tasks, dot-to-dots and puzzles.

You can expect regular fluctuations in the response of the child while they're learning to master the skill. This is a normal part of their learning process. But, when children experience a hard time managing their responses over longer time periods or across a number of settings, that may indicate a warning sign they may just benefit from extra help by an pediatric occupational therapist to master this skill.

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