Importance of Children's Regulation

When caring and working with children diagnosed with Autism you must consider regulation. Regulation can be impacted when a child's foundational sensory integrative processes may be delayed or disordered e.g. the child may have sensory processing disorder, sensory modulation, postural disorder and dyspraxia.

This is a diagram to simplify how regulation is important. Every time we enter interactions with the child who's regulation is more vulnerable spend more time supporting regulation and build up. This is why...

Imagine regulation as the roots of the flower. Regulation is through the central nervous system not the child's choice (which we may consider as behaviours). It can change day to day, each hour, with a new demand or emotional change. When a child is trying to obtain regulation it may look like:  

  • Withdrawing from situations or needing some space 
  • Running back and forth 
  • Needing a hug with no talking 
  • Needing to be held or do everything together 
  • Humming 
  • Needing to bounce, jump or swing often  

We want to support regulation first because it would create opportunities to promote parallel co-regulation play (the stem of the flower). This is when we might see more of joint attention for short period of time. This process is when we honor what the child's needs and acknowledge every intent they bring to us, this may look like: 

  • Needing you to be the anchor in the room, holding the space and be there while they play 
  • Imitating what they are doing 
  • Bouncing or swinging with them 
  • Holding your hand while they are running  

Once parallel co-regulation starts cooking we can keep building on with more expansions of skills. The child might become the initiator of play. They know you see them and they are finding interactions more meaningful and fun. This may look like:  

  • Child re-initiates the play 
  • Child adds a new idea to play 
  • Changes the play 
  • More purposeful during play 
  • Able to add another play partner 
  • Able to do multiple skills at once, such as share attention, communication, motor and/or sensory  

It is important to spend more time focusing on regulation. It is at regulation the child starts to build trust and meaning to the interactions we have with them. By making regulation a robust foundation it can make it easier to support higher level skills.  

Adapted from Maura Mooneyham's What Every Early Intervention Team Needs To Know. 

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