Using Self Regulation in the Classroom

Self Regulation Strategies for the Classroom

Teachers use many strategies in the classroom instinctively for helping kids stay on task and concentrating. Understanding how they link to the sensory piece as well as trying new strategies to add to your Teaching Toolbox can continue improving learning outcomes for children.

The sky is the limit for strategies in the classroom. Here are a few ideas that are tried and true, together with some of our favourite resources that we've used with many children.


  • Have a bucket of fidget toys or pieces of fabric with different textures available for those children who need to fiddle with something while listening at their desk or sitting in circle time (seeking).
  • Have weighted pencils available or create your own weighted pencil tubs for children who need extra touch input. (under responsive)
  • Have a touch-sensitive child learn the strategy of lining up and being the leader or at the back so they can have some control over their personal space (over responsive / sensory defensive)
  • A weighted lap pad will give some relaxing, grounding and calming deep touch pressure input to help a child keep calm and focused.



  • Bright fluorescent lights in classroom can be distracting and have been shown to contribute to misbehavior of students. Mood filters are covers with magnetic sides that clip over fluorescent lights and cut out the flickering of the lights. (Over responsive/ sensory defensive).
  • Assessing the classroom environment can be helpful. Look at how crafts and class paintings are displayed. Have a block of colour behind each different display to visually block them together.
  • Think about the colours of the walls of the classroom. Use a mid-hue colour as a feature wall at the front of the classroom, and have all other walls a neutral, but not bright white colour. This helps to visually focus students ready for learning and is visually calming.


  • Noise is very difficult to change and modify in classroom situations, especially to help students who struggle with loud noise.
  • Try and have a quiet corner which is away from the busy-ness of the classroom, or a space in the verandah or corridor that students can use as a retreat during class to have a break and be ‘sensory safe'.

Olfactory (smell)

  • Be aware of current and new smells. Be aware of smells of glue, paint, sprays or other materials. If a child is sensitive, perhaps place them close to extra ventilation for smelly activities.

Muscle (proprioception)

Muscle input is the best way to help the behaviour of ALL your class! It helps calm children who are a little too fast, and it helps wake-up and get ready for action students whose sensory systems struggle to get going. Muscle input lasts about 1.5-2 hours in the body, so regular muscle breaks throughout the school day will help keep kids grounded and on track.

  • Have regular movement breaks stand up stretch, do some yoga poses
  • Use some Rep Band or a deskerciser on the front two legs of a chair. They can hook their legs under and get some muscle input while they sit and do their work!
  • Have a 20 second break in class for chair pushups. (see Tool Chest Workbook)

Movement (vestibular)

  • Regular movement breaks help kids self-regulate and stay ready for learning.
  • Incorporate some movement into your day, and make sure you use movement that tips student's heads into different positions/ planes.
    • Have them bend over and tip their heads upside down and side to side, turning around.
    • Incorporate different movements into activities. Jumping up and down movements are very effective at alerting children. Spin around, twirl around and have fun!
  • Remember that kids generally LOVE movement. Movement stimulates the language centre of the brain, so be ready for lots of chatting and laughing!
  • At the end of a movement break, make sure you use some muscle input to help ground their nervous systems back into the just right zone. See the Self Awareness Chart. This will make the transition back to class and the learning environment much quicker. Just try some wall pushups on the way back to class!

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