Social Regulation


    Leah Kuypers, MA Ed, OTR/L , Author of ‘Zones of Regulation’

    Elizabeth Sautter, MA, SLP, CCC

    Perry, a 3rd grade student with social regulation challenges, says, “I use to ‘make a scene‘ when something upset me.  I have been told so many times to ‘calm down’ and it never worked.  That’s why I like social groups. It teaches you how to control yourself.”

    Perry, like so many who struggle to regulate themselves, are often told to use tools such as sensory supports or deep breathing when “making a scene”.  Without teaching how to read the social demands and how this type of behavior affects the people around them, this type of support is more of a band-aid than a long-term solution.

    We must recognize that social skills and self-regulation go hand in hand.  If we are unable to control our internal state and/or overt behaviors in order to adapt to various social demands, we will have minimal success in social situations.  People may label this as being “non-compliant,” “disruptive,” “hyper,” “anxious,” “inflexible,” or “lazy.”  These labels point to a deficit in what we refer to as social regulation, or the ability to adjust ones’ level of alertness and modify how emotions and behaviors are revealed in order to achieve social goals. We feel that since we are so often sharing space with others, we cannot view self-regulation and social learning as separate.

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