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Zones of Regulation

Zones of Regulation curriculum or Zones for short is composed of lessons and activities designed by Leah Kuypers, licensed occupational therapist, to help the child gain skills in the area of self-regulation. Most simply defined, regulation is to adjust, manage or control something so it works well. When applied to humans, regulation can go by many names, such as “self-control,” “self-management,” “emotional control,” “anger management,” or “impulse control.” These terms all describe a person’s ability to adjust their state of alertness, energy level, and emotions to help them attain personal goals, meet the demands of the situation around them, and gain a sense of well-being. Physiologically, when we are regulated, our brain and body integrated via the nervous systems work together to manage the situation at hand.

Regulation is something everyone continually works on whether we are aware of it or not. We all encounter trying circumstances that can test our limits. If we can recognize when we are becoming less regulated, we are able to do something about it to manage our feelings and get ourselves to a healthy place. This comes more naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs more attention and practice. This is the goal of The Zones of Regulation​.

Feelings are complicated. They come in different sizes, intensities, and levels of energy that are unique within our brains and bodies. To make them easier to talk about, think about, and regulate, The Zones of Regulation organizes our feelings, states of alertness, and energy levels into four colored Zones – Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red. The simple, common language and visual structure of The Zones of Regulation helps make the complex skill of regulation more concrete for learners and those who support them. We learn to regulate our Zones to meet our goals and task demands, as well as support our overall well-being. All the Zones are okay. We routinely experience several of the Zones across a day. It’s critically important that we don’t convey the message that the Green Zone is the only acceptable Zone to be in. Acknowledge, accept, and support these feelings, never make anyone feel like the Green Zone is the norm.

The Zones of Regulation is composed of lessons and learning activities designed to help children recognize when they are in the different Zones as well as learn how to use strategies to change or stay in the Zone they are in. In addition to addressing self-regulation, the students will gain an increased vocabulary of emotional terms, skills in reading other people’s facial expressions, perspective about how others see and react to their behavior, insight into events that trigger their behavior,calming and alerting strategies, and problem solving skills. A critical aspect of this curriculum is that all team members (parents, family members, teachers, etc.) know and understand The Zone’s language. This creates a comfortable and supportive environment for the student to practice his or her self-regulation skills. It also helps the student learn the skills more quickly and be more likely to apply them in many situations.

  • Alert: How Does Your Engine Run?

*The Alert Program was created by two occupational therapists, Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger. The main purpose of this program is to teach children, ages 6-12, simple and practical strategies to “monitor, maintain and change their state of alertness”. The program uses  the analogy of a car engine and teaches the child to describe  their arousal state using terms such as “high, low, and just right’. The child participates in a variety of sensory motor activities to learn to label their engine speed, plays a “go fish” game, and a board game called “keeping on track”. For more information on the Alert Program please visit the following website: