The Zones of Regulation is a cognitive behaviour approach for helping students self-regulate their behaviours, emotions, and sensory needs. By using concepts and visuals to help students learn to recognise their feelings and level of arousal, it allows them to employ strategies for optimal learning.

Exploring Emotions-

The Zones can be compared to traffic signs.  When given a green light or in the Green Zone, one is “good to go”.  A yellow sign means be aware or take caution, which applies to the Yellow Zone.  A red light or stop sign means stop, and when one is the Red Zone, this often is the case.  The Blue Zone can be compared to the rest area signs where one goes to rest or re-energize.  All of the zones are expected at one time or another and there is no judgement placed on being in any one zone. The goal is not to ‘get to the green zone’ – the programme focuses on teaching students how to manage their behaviour within that Zone so that they can continue to behave in an appropriate and expected way, based on the environment and people around them. For example, when playing on the playground or in an active/competitive game, no one would think twice about one being in the Yellow Zone but that would not be same in the library. – Zones of Regulation

Although the Zones of Regulation is often used to support the needs of children with ASD or ADHD, it is very much applicable to all children, and even adults. The ability to recognise our own state of arousal and to make the necessary adjustment so that it is appropriate for the occasion we face is something we all require to function optimally.

The Goals of the Zones of Regulation

The goals of the zones of regulation are to teach children to:

  • identify their feelings and levels of alertness
  • develop effective regulation tools
  • learn when and how to use the tools
  • problem solve positive solutions
  • understand how their behaviours influence thoughts and feelings
  • ultimately – develop independent regulation

The Four Zones of Regulation

  • Blue Zone: low level of arousal; not ready to learn; feels sad, sick, tired, bored, moving slowly.
  • Green Zone: calm state of alertness; optimal level to learn; feels happy, calm, feeling okay, focused.
  • Yellow Zone: heightened state of alertness; elevated emotions; has some control; feels frustrated, worried, silly/wiggly, excited, loss of some control.
  • Red Zone: heightened state of alertness and intense emotions; not an optimal level for learning; out of control; feels mad/angry, terrified, yelling/hitting, elated, out of control.
Zones of Regulation

Tools for Regulation

The tools that work for one person may not work for another person. Therefore, children are encouraged to try out a variety of different regulation tools and to develop their own emotional ‘toolbox’.

For the Blue Zone – increase arousal:

  • think happy thoughts
  • talk about your feelings
  • rub hands together
  • run on the spot
  • shoulder rub
  • ask for a hug
  • swinging or spinning
  • stretching or jumping jacks
  • strong scents
  • vibration
  • drink water
  • crunchy foods
  • bright lights
  • listening to loud music

For the Green Zone – maintaining:

  • keep your eyes on the teacher
  • remember your daily goals
  • finish your homework
  • think happy thoughts
  • be a good friend
  • help others
  • work hard
  • smile

For the Yellow Zone – decrease arousal:

  • talk to my parents/friends
  • take 3 deep breaths
  • do a wall push up
  • use a fidget
  • go for a walk
  • take a break
  • read
  • deep pressure
  • slow movement
  • heavy work to muscles
  • soft lighting
  • listen to music
  • chewy foods

For the Red Zone – decrease arousal:

  • take three deep breaths
  • how big is my problem – the size of your reaction should match the size of the problem. How big do others see the problem? How big should your reaction be?
  • jump on a trampoline
  • relax your muscles
  • talk to an adult
  • sensory break
  • push the wall
  • count to 20
  • walk away
  • STOP!
  • deep pressure
  • slow movement
  • heavy work to muscles
  • soft lighting
  • listen to music
  • chewy foods
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