Regulation

The ability to experience and maintain stress within a person's window of tolerance. Generally referred to as being calm, focused or relaxed. This term is used by literally every scientific discipline.

Regulation

 “The way the mind organized its own functioning…”- Daniel J. Siegel 

“The brain’s ability to sense and respond to the needs of the body.  Specialized ‘thermostat’s’ that monitor and function within our internal and external worlds” – Bruce D. Perry

Dysregulation

The experience of being outside of a person's window of tolerance. Generally referred to as being stressed out, or in a state of distress.

Dysregulation

“posttraumatic stress is the result of a fundamental reorganization of the central nervous system based on having experienced an actual threat of annihilation, (or seeing someone else being annihilated), which reorganizes self experience (as helpless) and the interpretation of reality (the entire world is a dangerous place).” – Bessel A van der Kolk

Regulation Activities

The following are categories of regulating activities.  First, we described the TYPE OF ACTIVITY, what it does for the brain and why it’s helpful.  Then we have listed ideas to try at home.  

Remember: the idea is not to pressure yourself or your children with doing all of these every day, but to sprinkle them in.  Incorporate them in at your own pace, with the goal of doing SOME regulating activity every couple of hours as you move through your day.  

The idea is to integrate a variety of Regulating Activities in dose responses (5-15 minute spurts) throughout the day.

These activities are great for everyone – even adults!

Joint Compression

Restores a child’s sense of control when a child feels out of control.  It helps them feel grounded, providing deep abrupt stimulation when they feel chaotic and out of control physically and otherwise. Improves body awareness and organization.  Helps children figure out where they are in space.  Once the body is aware, it becomes more secure and organized in movement and thought.


Regulation Activities that involve Joint Compression

  • Bone Jarring Activity – Jump Rope, Jumping up and Down, Stomping in general
  • Trampoline – They can be great, and are often too soft for highly dysregulated children. If you notice your child becomes more dysregulated (fast moving, disorganized, not calm) with trampolines, they may need more input than the soft landing of a trampoline can provide.
  • Gymnastics – The hard landings in gymnastics are great joint compression activities.
  • Pogo Stick – I recommend one for any child I work with, as soon as they can use it.
  • Jump Squats & Burpees – as long as they are fun activity, not a forced activity
  • Big Jumps, Jumping Jacks – same as above, within relationship, in fun, never forced

Deep Pressure

Helps muscles and tension to relax and increases feelings of security, can soothe the nervous system, as long as it’s done within a positive relational experience and not forced.. Helps moderate anxiety, provides a dopamine release, increases body awareness for those with a sensitive nervous system.

***Note: Deep Pressure Activities are best before sleep, upon waking or at times of rest (while watching movies, reading books, listening to stories or music, circle time)


Regulation Activities that involve Deep Pressure

  • Baby Burrito – wrap up in a blanket, provide pressure while wrapping, tuck edges, have child stand up and walk around wrapped up like a “baby burrito”)
  • Bed Time Squeezes – Child snuggles into bed in any comfortable position, covers to neck (or comfort level), caregiver squeezes as hard as child feels comfortable, starting with feet, all the way up the body to shoulders,
  • Weighted Blankets – highly recommend weighted blankets for sleeping and resting activities. Now easily available at Walmart and Target or Amazon and even through schools or OT
  • Weighted Vest – We made one by zipping rolls of pennies into the pockets of a sweatshirt can help with body control. Again, as long as kids are ok with and enjoy it.
  • Brushing Protocol – This is an amazing at home support. Ask your OT about brushing protocol.

Proprioception

is feeling grounded, knowing where your body is in time and space. People with proprioceptive deficits have difficulty understanding where their body is in their environment. They may be restless and seek sensory input (attention / chaos) both physical and otherwise or they may avoid situations because they cannot tolerate the input.


Regulation Activities that involve Proprioception

  • Hop Scotch
  • Hanging from Monkey Bars (balance is a part of proprioception)
  • Jump Rope
  • Yoga Ball or Wobble Stool (feet flat on the ground, feel center of gravity)
  • Box at My Feet – place a stool, box or crate at the foot of your child’s chair at home and school so their feet are never dangling. This helps them stay in the chair. It helps them feel grounded. You’ll want a hard box / crate that gives them solid input.
  • Pushing Heavy Things – Pushing the grocery cart or wheel barrel.
  • Tug of War
  • Pulling and Pushing Activities – Vacuuming and mopping
  • Swimming is THE BEST for proprioception – when I am working with a new client with this area of challenge, I get them in the water as soon as I can.
  • Gummy Bears – or something with that consistency, kept in the refrigerator, and given when it’s time to focus on a task is very helpful. The hard chewing can really help with focus. Tip: Sour Gummies for waking up (alert)
  • Bean Bag Chairs, sleeping bags, tents that surround the body help with grounding too.
  • Swings

Integration

The ability to engage multiple of the brain Blowing, Sucking activities are the best for engaging multiple areas of the brain.  Blowing and Sucking activate the Trigeminal Nerve, which also activates the Vegus Nerve, resulting in full nervous system reset and a more integrated brain state.  Blowing and sucking activities are primary activities for interhemispheric integration, and support binocular functions (eye teaming), light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, articulation, bowel and bladder control, tongue and lip control for articulation, facial muscle tone for nonverbal communication, and more.


Regulation Activities that involve Integration

Blowing

  • Breathing Activities
  • BellyCoaster
  • Ball Blow Pipe
  • Wooden Boat Balloon
  • Rocket Balloons
  • Balloons – blow them up, toss them around, I keep them handy in all forms all over the house and in the car.
  • Cotton Ball Races – blow cotton balls across table
  • Kazoos and Harmonica’s

Sucking

  • Silly Straw
  • Yogurt or Applesauce – take a straw, punch it through the top of a single serve yogurt or applesauce and “drink” yogurt / applesauce through straw.
  • Sour Lollipops
  • Sucking Noodles
  • Dime Travel – Trace a dime on a piece of paper, wash dime, then use a straw to move the dime from circle to circle on a piece of paper.
  • Put a Bubble in your Mouth – Make a big bubble in your mouth and hold it.

Rhythm / Crossing the Midline

“The only way to move from these super-high anxiety states, to calmer more cognitive states, is rhythm.  Patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity: walking, running, dancing, singing, repetitive meditative breathing – you use brain stem-related somatosensory networks which make your brain accessible to relational (limbic brain) reward and cortical thinking”. ~ Dr Bruce Perry

“Rhythmic activity, within relationship is, in my experience, the most effective way to both stave off an escalation, and to get back into connection following an escalation or relationship break”. ~ Tif Sudela-Junker


Regulation Activities that involve Rhythm / Crossing the Midline

  • Name that Tune (my fav with teens)
  • Tongue Drum (any drumming)
  • Lummi Sticks
  • Twister
  • Musical Chairs
  • Dance Party 
  • Hand Clapping Games
  • Zumba
  • Music Lessons
  • Dance & Freeze

Mindfulness

“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” … Mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s happening as it’s happening.” Jon Kabat Zinn

“Mindfulness has never met a cognition it didn’t like.” Dr. Dan Siegel.

Cognition is defined as the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.  The ability to slow the mind, allow it to integrate, allows cognition to happen.


Regulation Activities that involve Mindfulness

  • Car Wash – When my son was little and having an off day, I would get a bunch of quarters and take him to the carwash and let him wash the car for hours.  It was the best reset EVER!  I started keeping quarters in hand all the time.  
  • Listening to Music – ANY music can cultivate mindfulness.  Even music that matches the chaos inside can help regulate the brain.  “Yes, Hip Hop heals…” Dr. Bruce Perry 
  • 4 Senses – Works well with all ages.  Close your eyes and have kids 1st say 4 things they hear, then 3 things they see, then 2 things they smell, then 2 things they taste, then 1 something they feel outside of their body and 1 something they feel inside of their body. 
  • Trauma-Informed Yoga
  • Coloring
  • Nature Bracelets – Make a bracelet out of duct tape, sticky side up.  Take a quick walk and find treasures in nature to stick to your bracelet.

Three Guiding Truths

one

Early trauma physically changes the developing brain.

two

Kindness and compassionate responses soothe the nervous system.

three

Our idea of community needs to be re-defined, it needs to adapt, because compassionate relationships heal trauma.