Saturday, 18 November 2017

What is the difference between Shanker Self-Reg and Zones of Regulation?

Many people ask, "What is the difference between Zones of Regulation and Shanker Self-Reg?" While my own understanding of self-regulation is still evolving, my short answer is that Zones of Regulation is a program for teachers to teach students about self-regulation that is based on students having self-control and being able to self-manage - to recognize what 'zone' they are in and respond to move themselves back to a zone where they are calm and able to learn.

Shanker Self-Reg is a reflective process that can be used by anyone at any age. While there are five steps, they are not linear nor cyclical but iterative. In Shanker Self-Reg, we reframe behaviour, our own and that of others, by asking 'why this behaviour and why now?' We co-regulate with others, acting as stress detectives to recognize and reduce stressors so that we can return to a state of calm. Rather than using self-control to regulate behaviour, it is self-regulation that makes self-control possible.

More information on self-regulation and self-control can be found here.

The Self-Reg Institute has a great series of videos on youtube including this one on What is Self-Reg?

For those who are seeking a much more robust explanation about the difference between the two programs, I recommend reading this article by Hopkins, Shanker and Leslie which explains it far better than I can!  Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75. 

Below, I've adapted a chart from their article which compares the two approaches to self-regulation on a number of factors. 

A comparison of Zones of Regulation® and Shanker Self-Reg®

Zones of Regulation®
Shanker Self-Reg®
Leah Kuypers (MA Ed,
OTR/L, ASD Res.) – 2011

Stuart Shanker (DPhil),
The MEHRIT Centre
– 2012

A systemic, cognitive
approach used to teach
self-regulation by
categorizing all the
different ways we feel
and states of alertness
into four concrete zones.

A method for
understanding stress and
managing tension and
energy; a process rather
than a curriculum or a

Definition of self-regulation
“the ability to do what
needs to be done to be in
the optimal state for the
given situation”
A life-long process
Successful self-regulation
via three
critical neurological
sensory processing;
• executive functioning;
• emotional regulation.

“how people manage
energy expenditure,
recovery, and restoration
in order to enhance
growth. Effective self-regulation
learning to recognize and
respond to stress in all its
many facets, positive as
well as negative, hidden
as well as overt, minor as
well as traumatic or toxic.”

Central Tenets
Aims to teach students
how to become more
aware and independent
in: controlling their
emotions and impulses;
managing sensory need;
improving ability to
problem-solve conflicts.
In doing so, aims to
“teach students to
figure out what zone
is expected in given
circumstances. If their
zone doesn’t match the
environmental demands
and the zones of others
around them, you will
be teaching strategies
to assist in moving to
expected zone.”

Involves understanding
the triune metaphor
of the brain, the stress
response system, and
learning to manage
brain-body energy
and tension with these
guiding values:
Shanker Self-Reg® is a
universal platform (not a
targeted intervention or
behaviour management
Self-Reg is a process not
a program; ALL people
are capable of selfregulation,
no matter
the age, stage, or ability
Each individual, family,
culture, and community
holds unique Self-Reg
There is no single set
way to do Self-Reg;
There are no quick fixes; Self-Reg is a continual
and reflective process;
Self-Reg is for everyone, it
is not just about children
and youth;
The well-being of children
is inseparable from the
well-being of critical
adults in their lives.

Tools taught and Practiced
Sensory supports
Calming techniques
Thinking strategies
The Shanker Method®
Dynamic System of the
5 Domains

Intended Audience
Two to four students
with the same cognitive
abilities working with
one facilitator or eight
to ten students working
with two facilitators;
from 4 years old at or
above average intellect.

Everyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

Anyone (parents/
therapists [OT]).

Anyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

How Self-Regulation is Assessed/Tracked
Check-ins (or
communication boards)
Informal observation of
student behaviour
More formal observation
of student behaviour,
including data collection
and point sheets

Rubric for Self-
Reg Competencies
(educators assessing
Rubric for personal Self-
Reg (adults)
*Further assessment
tools in process of
being created*

Theoretical Underpinnings/Influences
Cognitive Behaviour
Central Coherence
Theory (Frith, 1989)
Systemizing Theory
(Baron-Cohen, 2006)
Social Thinking (Winner,
The Alert Program
(Williams &
Shellenberger, 1996)
The Incredible 5-Point
Scale (Buron & Curtis,
“Phases of control”
(Kopp, 1982)
(Dawson & Guare, 2009)
SCERTS Model (Prizant,
Wetherby, Rubin,
Laurent, & Rydell, 2006)
Theory of Mind (Frith,
Enactive Mind approach
(Klin, Jones, Schultz, &
Volkmar, 2003)

The Triune Brain
(Maclean, 1990)
Child development
(Greenspan, 1997)
(Schore, 1994)
(Porges, 2011)
Psychology of parenting
(Baumrind, 1967)
Secondary altriciality
(Gould, 1977; Portmann,
Homeostasis / fight-orflight
(Cannon, 1932)
Dynamic Systems
Theory (Fogel, King, &
Shanker, 2007)
(Waddington, 1942)
Coregulation (Fogel,

Tools/Resources Available
The Zones of
Regulation®: A
Curriculum Designed to
Foster Self-Regulation
and Emotional Control
The Zones of
Regulation® CD,
including 35 full-color
and black-and-white
The Zones of
Regulation® App
Exploring Emotions App

Self-Reg: How to Help
Your Child (& You)
Break the Stress Cycle
& Successfully Engage
with Life (2016)
Calm, Alert and
Learning: Classroom
Strategies for Selfregulation
The Shanker Self-
Reg® Tool Kit for
Parenting Magazine
Consultation for parents
and educators
Self-Reg eSchool
(Parent Portal, Portal
Plus, Foundations
Courses, Facilitator’s
Courses, Master Classes,
webinars, workshops,

Framework/Program Research
Described as “practice
based on evidence versus
an evidence-based
practice” (Retrieved from
Two research studies
completed and two
research studies in

Research in progress in
five areas:
The 5 Domains of Stress
Transition Conditions
Between Positive &
Negative Stressors
Reframing Scientific
Self-Reg in Practice
Review of Self-Reg

Basic Steps of Framework/Program
18 sequenced lessons,
30–60 min./lesson
RED: extremely
heightened alertness and
intense emotions
YELLOW: elevated
emotions and alertness
GREEN: calm alertness
and optimal learning
BLUE: low state of
alertness and down

The Shanker Method™:
Reframe the behavior
Recognize the stressors
(across the five domains)
Reduce the stress
Reflect: enhance stress
Respond: develop
personalized strategies to
promote resilience and

 From: Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Bath-Haters Club

In our self-reg learning journey we've been talking about restorative practices - activities that help us to reduce tension and restore our energy when we are feeling like the tank is getting empty. And, once again, we are focusing on the SELF in self-regulation.  What is restorative for me may not be for you, and what the media tells us is restorative may not be at all.

Popular media portrays taking a bath as relaxing and restorative. Both of my daughters LOVE baths and have ever since they were kids.  They love adding bubbles and bath bombs and lighting candles and dim the lights and have music playing.  It's a whole experience!  But in our online discussion we found that we have a whole group of us, myself included, who have dubbed ourselves the bath-haters club.  One participant said that when she takes a bath, she thinks, "How long do I have to sit in here before I'm relaxed?"

Photo from

For some people - relaxation and restoration; for others not so much!

Others felt the same way about massage - instead of feeling relaxed and restored, they felt anxious and uncomfortable and could hardly wait for it to be over.

Photo from

Time seems to be one way to gauge whether or not a practice is restorative. If you lose track of time because you are so engaged, so relaxed, so 'in the zone' then likely this is restorative for you.  If you are watching the clock, waiting for the end, then probably not.

As teachers, we want to share a variety of restorative practices with our students so that they can determine what helps them to reduce tension and restore their energy when they feel like they are running low. What works with some students may not work for others, and what works one day may not work another day. A mandatory whole class meditation session every day after recess for every student is not going to be effective any more than if there was a mandatory whole staff meditation session at lunch every day.  Would you look forward to that and find it restorative? Or would you be like the members of the bath-haters club - watching the clock, wondering how much longer and waiting for it to be over?

Instead, we want to provide our students with a variety of strategies and help them to notice when they need to reduce tension and restore energy, and learn how they can do so in a way that is appropriate in the classroom and doesn't deter from the learning of others. For some of our students, being outside at recess is the restorative practice - running, playing, talking with friends, being outside in the fresh air. Other strategies might include sensory bottles, flexible seating, snacks, getting a drink of water, breathing exercises, and stretching/yoga.

Some classrooms I've visited have a self-regulation corner, shelf or area where students can access materials when they need them. We have posters in our classroom that tell our students 'what good readers do' or 'what to do when you're finished you work.' Why not a co-created  poster  with self-reg strategies that can be added to throughout the year? What could this individualized self-reg look like in your classroom?

One last word from the Bath-haters club:

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Self-reg - Not just for kids Part 2

Last week's post on 'self-regulation - not just for kids' got a lot of traffic and was one of the blogs featured on Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley's podcast of This Week in Ontario Edublogs.  You can listen to the podcast here or read a summary of the five blogs featured on Doug's website.  I find that This Week in Ontario Edublogs (#TWIOE) is a great resource for finding blogs that I would probably otherwise miss.

In my blog post I described a time when my husband John and I were travelling and after 24 hours and three flights had finally arrived at the apartment we would be living at for the next 6 weeks in Cordoba, Argentina. It was late at night, the security guard wouldn't let us in, when we finally did get in the apartment was super small, and when we went for a walk to find something to eat there were no restaurants in our neighbourhood.  I was on the verve of losing it, and I described how John was able to 'lend me his calm.' 

During the podcast, Stephen wondered 'what would this look like in a classroom of 20 or even 30 students?'  What a great question!
The short answer - we slow down our language, modulate our voice, and be very present for that child.

The long answer - I'll try to answer it here using the five steps of Shanker Self-Reg, although to answer it thoroughly would be a book not a blog post.

Reframe the behaviour - in a classroom, it means thinking about children's behaviour and asking ourselves, "Is this misbehaviour or is this stress behaviour?"  If it's misbehaviour, then the child is still in control (using their prefrontal cortex) and we can reason with them.  If it's stress behaviour, then their limbic system is running the show. They are in fight, flight or freeze.  This is when they need us to co-regulate with them, and lend them our calm.

Recognize the stressors - stressors are different for each person each day so determining what the stressors are can be challenging.  We want to teach kids to be able to recognize stressors so they can eventually do the five steps of self-reg on their own.  The first stressors to check are the biological stressors - hungry, tired, cold students are already so stressed they can't deal with the additional cognitive, emotional and social stressors of school.

Remove stressors - we do this by having breakfast and snack programs, by turning down some of the bright, buzzing florescent lights in our classrooms. We do this by providing flexible seating options, by allowing kids to take a break for a moment, to get up and stretch. I can't go to a conference and sit in a hard chair from 9 am to 3 pm without taking breaks so why would I expect kids to be able to do that?  I used to teach 29 grade four students in a portable.  It was noisy and some students were stressed by the noise so I had old headphones available that they could wear. The headphones weren't connected to anything but they helped block the noise for those students.  MEHRIT Centre has a free list of classroom modifications available for teachers.

Reflect - if we want kids to be able to self-regulate so that they can be 'calm, alert and ready to learn' then they have to know what calm feels like.  In today's hyper-busy world, a lot of people don't have much calm in their lives.

Restore - we need students to be aware of what is calming for them.  We can help them by co-regulating and lending them our calm, but we want them to find what works for them so they can bring themselves back to calm.  We can introduce them to mindfulness techniques like breathing exercises and have sensory materials available in our classroom for student use.  What works will be different for each child, and what works one day may not work another day.  This is the same for adults. Some people find meditation reduces stress, others don't.  So a whole class meditation moment after recess may reduce stress for a small percentage of your students and help them to calm down and get ready to learn, but may actually increase stress for other students (hence the silliness). When introducing these restorative practices to your class, it helps to preface it with 'this is something that some of you might find helps you to stay calm so you are ready to learn.' A good example of this are the fidget spinners that were so popular. For some students they were a tool to help them focus.  For other kids, they were a distraction.