Emotional Regulation Techniques
In special education, there will be days in which students may need some help with emotional self-regulation. Over my many years as a special educator, I have learned different emotional regulation techniques to try. Let me share some tips that have helped me over the years!
What is Emotional Regulation?
First off, what exactly is emotional regulation? Emotional regulation is simply the ability to manage your emotional responses. In education, it is also sometimes referred to as emotional self-regulation. We can't be angry all day long and get through the day very well, right? This means that we have to have emotional regulation techniques to help us manage our emotions to get through the day. To some people, this comes naturally. To students, we need to teach these tools while they are still learning.
3 Emotional Regulation Techniques to Try
Below, I've listed three different emotional regulation techniques that have worked in both elementary and high school special education settings. I hope they help!
1. Teach the Zones of Regulation
The Zones of Regulation is a fabulous program created by Leah Kuypers. The Zones of Regulation program helps students connect a visual picture to how they are feeling. Every emotion is connected to a different colored zone: blue, green, yellow, or red. Throughout the day, we want to teach students to be in the green zone as much as possible. This means that our body is calm and ready to learn. We may be in the blue zone if we are feeling tired, the yellow zone if we are frustrated or the red zone if we are angry. This curriculum comes with tools for teaching students how to get out of the blue, yellow, and red zones, as well.
“Regulation is something everyone continually works on whether we are cognizant of it. We all encounter trying circumstances that test our limits from time to time. If we can recognize when we are becoming less regulated, we are able to do something about it to manage our feelings and get ourselves to a healthy place. This comes more naturally for some, but for others, it is a skill that needs more attention and practice. This is the goal of The Zones of Regulation (or Zones for short).”
– Leah Kuypers, Creator of The Zones of Regulation
2. Give Students Choices
Using choices to improve challenging behavior is the easiest way to combat negative behaviors. Typically when you are offering choices to a student, you want to make them as simple as possible and try and stick with only two options. You don't want to use a choice board for some students that have 12 different options on it because then they will have decision-overwhelm! Read more about why to avoid open-ended questions and how to have some control over students' choices here.
3. Use Visuals
I probably sound like a broken record a lot of the time but that's okay, I will say it again: students in special education NEED and THRIVE off of visuals. Many students love having a visual schedule that shows their day and routine. When students are not self-regulated, they need visual aids more than ever! If I have a student who doesn't want to finish his or her work, I like to use the First-Then board. This helps to give them a visual representation to show them what they will get after they are done.
What kinds of emotional regulation techniques do you use in your classroom?