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Tools for Teaching Self-Regulation and Relaxation

Behavior Support | February 27, 2014

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Wow I have been dealing with a lot of kids with high anxiety lately.  Anyone else been having that issue?  I don’t know if it’s the weather or what, but it just seems like a lot of my students are really struggling right now with trying to stay calm and in control.  One way to help students relax is to teach them a variety of coping skills when they are calm so they can use them when they are in crisis.  I talked about progressive relaxation in my last post as one of those tools. I wanted to focus today on a new product I developed to help students learn to practice deep breathing and self-control.

I Can Stay Calm is a combination of social narratives and visual supports (both evidence-based practices) designed to help students contain excitement and stay calm, calm themselves when they are angry or frustrated, and remember that they can ask for a break (which is part of functional communication training, also an EBP, that I will talk about in detail in later posts).

It includes the 4 social narratives regarding using a calm down routine to be ready for class, to
calm down when excited, before being aggressive and asking for a break. A social narrative is a version of a story that gives information to students about their behavior, others’ perspectives, and coping strategies for handling difficult information.  We use them to support students with autism and I use them with a variety of populations for which I’ve found them to be quite helpful, including typical individuals.

In this package, each story is in a format with 1 idea and picture on each page and an identical story in which the whole story is contained on 1 page with a picture for each idea next to the line.  Which one you use at what time will depend on the needs and developmental level of the student as well as the situation.  Younger students typically do well with the multi-page stories but could use the 1-page stories as quick reminders in the
situation.

In addition to the stories, there are visual supports included for cueing a relaxation deep breathing sequence, a calm-down strategy before entering class, and pictures that can be used for choice boards for activities during break time, including a variety of sensory activities as well as reinforcing or exercise-based activities.  Finally there are multiple copies of a break card with a picture and without a picture.  These can be used for students to request a break and correspond to the “I can ask for a break” social narrative.  Breaks are best used when they include scheduled activities. The visuals for exercise and activities can be used to either choose or structure activities for a break.

In addition to the stories, there are visual supports included for cueing a relaxation deep breathing sequence, a calm-down strategy before entering class, and pictures that can be used for choice boards for activities during break time, including a variety of sensory activities as well as reinforcing or exercise-based activities.  Finally there are multiple copies of a break card with a picture and without a picture.  These can be used for students to request a break and correspond to the “I can ask for a break” social narrative.  Breaks are best used when they include scheduled activities. The visuals for exercise and activities can be used to either choose or structure activities for a break.

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3 thoughts on “Tools for Teaching Self-Regulation and Relaxation”

  1. As an individual who has autism and as an advocate, I wanted to thank you for teaching and stressing the importance of self regulation skills (and teaching them to students). Learning to self regulate changed my life. Knowing the strategies and having the tools is different than being able to use them, at least it was this way for me. I knew a bunch of strategies, and if asked I could list off strategies or tools I could use, but using them in the moment during times of high anxiety was hard. It has gotten easier over time, and being able to self regulate has helped me so much. 🙂

    1. Thank you Chloe for sharing that. I believe that the biggest focus in education for all students should be to make the individuals as independent as they can be. Self-regulation is one of them and the point that you make about being able to list off the strategies but not use them in the moment is something I see with everyone with or without special needs. The practicing and overlearning of the strategies is really key at being able to use them and the teaching when students are calm allows them to learn and practice the strategies effectively. Thanks for sharing your experiences so eloquently.

  2. Pingback: Checking the Pulse

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