What do you think of when you hear the term self-regulation? Parents usually envision a well behaved child: calm and obedient. For a therapist, self-regulation sits at the intersection
of a child’s neurological and biological function, emotional regulation, and cognitive and social abilities. These abilities allow a child to function appropriately socially, emotionally and intellectually in a variety of environments. CDI’s approach to therapy is centered around helping children develop the underlying skills necessary for self-regulation.
Self-regulation is the first set of skills children need to master. It starts with the infant’s ability to process all of his/her senses, modulate sensations and self-soothe. When the nervous system is calibrated, we are able to adapt to changing situations, connect with others, communicate clearly, and focus our attention on the task at hand. We are less likely to show frustration, poor impulse control and inappropriate social behaviors. Children who master this crucial set of skills also show more organized thinking, focused attention, and better executive function. They are able to perform academic tasks that children with self-regulation challenges cannot.
Kids who struggle with self-regulation also experience poor emotional processing. These children don’t understand their own emotions, and are therefore unable to label them. This hampers their ability to communicate their feelings, thereby increasing their frustration and anxiety. They also lack the internal awareness needed to focus their attention and control their impulses. Transitions from one activity to the next are especially challenging for them, provoking fear and tantrum-like reactions. They also tend to be very sensitive to stimuli.
Children with sensory processing challenges often show self-regulation issues. Their inability to process their sensory world efficiently can make them appear hyper-reactive, unfocused or tuned out. It’s easy to interpret these states as poor behavior. Self-control, however, cannot happen without self-regulation. CDI’s therapists have many strategies to individualize treatments that will not only help with self-regulation but also improve emotional outcomes. Our sensory integration and relationship based approaches are especially well suited to help children facing these developmental challenges. Our treatments are designed to help improve sensory processing, develop bonding, emotional resilience and communication, as well as focused attention and organized thinking. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to participate in therapy to improve their child’s regulation at home, at school and in the community. Our therapists evaluate the whole child, including his/her ability to self-regulate. The therapeutic treatments we provide are individualized, and support the child and his/her parents and caregivers. Contact CDI for more information on self-regulation, or to schedule an evaluation for your child.