Sensory Strategies to Help Kids with Self-Regulation in the Classroom

Sensory Strategies to Help Kids with Self-Regulation in the Classroom

 The Importance of Self-Regulation Skills

Self-regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you are upset and cheer your self up when you are down. In the classroom, students may need help with self-regulating their emotions and managing their behaviors. The ability for students to learn how to manage their own emotions and behaviors can be vital for them to be able to learn in a school environment. Teaching students how to appropriately express their feelings, act towards others, handle stress, receive criticism, calm down when they are angry or think positive thoughts about themselves are just some of the ways self-regulation skills are so important.

Self Regulation in the Classroom

Managing a classroom can be difficult when you have multiple kids you are responsible for. When you have kids that are acting out and being disruptive this can limit your ability to teach to all of the kids in the classroom. Teaching self-regulation skills to every kid in the classroom can be helpful for everyone, but especially children that have more difficulty in this area.

Also, think about how your classroom environment is set up. Do you have enough area in the room to allow for movement breaks or a corner in the room that children can go to if they need a break? Do you have a positive environment in your classroom for the students? What do you have on the walls of the classroom?

How can we teach self-regulation skills in the classroom?

First of all, make sure you are modeling the appropriate behaviors you would like your students to model. Think about yourself as a teacher, are you able to handle stress and stay calm when your classroom is chaotic? Find ways to demonstrate a calm body yourself when teaching your students.

Provide opportunities during the day to practice self-awareness and coping strategies. We can teach body self-awareness through breathing exercises, movement breaks, and yoga poses. Do you have a minute as a transition between classroom activities? Take a minute to have everyone take a deep breath or get up and stretch. If you have more time, go through some yoga poses together as a class.

Build up the student’s self-esteem by going around the room and telling students what they are doing well at. Provide a wall in the room to allow the students to write uplifting and positive messages to their classmates or place positive and encouraging posters around the room. When your students see value in their work and efforts they will be much more likely to succeed.

Teach students about feelings and how they may be feeling during a particular activity. The first step to managing emotions is by teaching them to recognize their emotions. Ways to work on recognizing their emotions would be through emotion flashcards or social stories. Provide pictures of various feelings and have the students identify them. Allow them to share with you how they are feeling during the school day by having a poster of feelings and they can place a sticker on how they are feeling at that moment.

Another tip could be using a visual schedule for the kids in the classroom so they can be prepared as to what will be going on during the school day and make them feel more secure about what will be happening next.

Sensory Strategies to help with Self-Regulation

Providing students with a variety of sensory experiences and strategies can also help teach them self-regulation skills during the school day.

Heavy Work Activities

Heavy work activities are activities that involve providing input to the child’s joints and muscles. These could be things that provide pressure to their bodies. These can be calming for some students.

  • Giving themselves a hug/squeeze
  • Cleaning up the desks, pushing in the chairs, and lifting and putting away books
  • Squeezing a fidget toy
  • Using something weighted such as a vest or lap pad
  • Push hands into the base of the chair to provide pressure into their hands
  • Yoga Poses
  • Carrying a heavy backpack between classes

Oral Motor Activities

  • Having a water bottle available to drink from
  • Sucking through a straw
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Chewing gum
  • Having a snack break
  • Sucking on hard candy
Sensory Strategies to Help Kids with Self-Regulation in the Classroom

Visual Activities

  • Using a visual schedule to help with the school routine
  • coloring activities
  • arts and crafts activities
  • positive and uplifting visual posters around the room
  • think about the lighting in the classroom, can you dim the lights for calming activities?

Auditory Activities

  • listening to music
  • singing songs during transitions
  • singing songs during the lessons
  • clapping hands
  • wearing headphones or earplugs to block out the noise

Movement Based Activities

  • Getting up to stretch between activities
  • Singing head shoulders, knees, and toes and moving to the song
  • having students run errands for you to take something to the office
  • playing follow the leader around the room
  • providing a variety of seating options for the students to be able to wiggle while learning
    • bean bag chair
    • exercise ball
    • wiggle cushions
    • standing desks
    • the ability to lay down on the stomach and use a binder to hold the paper to write

Teaching Self-Regulation skills in the classroom can be vital to help students learn to the best of their abilities! Taking time during the school day to take breaks and be aware of how you are modeling self-regulation skills to your students can be helpful. Helping students manage their emotions and behaviors will have a lifelong lasting impact for them to be able to participate in a variety of activities as they get older.

Sensory Strategies to Help Kids with Self-Regulation in the Classroom
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Sara Anderson is a pediatric occupational therapist as well as a sibling to a teenage brother with autism. Her family has created the blog to help parents and professionals support teens with autism. We share valuable resources we have learned as a family on our journey to help my brother become an independent adult. We have a Teachers Pay Teachers Store with resources for teaching life skills. You can follow our journey on Pinterest and Facebook.

How to Promote Emotional Self-Regulation Among Autistic Teens and Young Adults

How to Promote Emotional Self-Regulation Among Autistic Teens and Young Adults

In this post you will learn helpful strategies for encouraging emotional self-regulation in autistic teens and young adults to improve their well-being and daily functioning.

Traversing the complex world of emotions requires self-regulation. However, young adults on the autism spectrum take a unique approach to controlling their sensory input, regulating emotions in a capacity different from others. 

As a parent or caregiver, you must understand the unique experiences and needs of an autistic teen to build an effective support system. 

To help you, I’ll discuss the value of focused interventions and approaches when addressing such demands. I’ll also explore evidence-based strategies and helpful tools that support emotional self-regulation in this demographic. 

Understanding Emotional Self-Regulation in Autism 

Self-regulation is essential in autism because it can help people overcome their daily difficulties. It requires mental, emotional, and behavioral control to support flexibility and well-being. 

We can empower young adults to thrive and realize their full potential by understanding emotional regulation in autism and helping them self-regulate. 

What Is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation refers to the ​ability to control emotions and behaviors​, which helps people adapt and fulfill the demands of various situations. 

It is particularly relevant for people with autism, as it helps them manage sensory sensitivity, emotional fluctuations, and social interactions. It entails identifying internal states, using tactics to modify them, and adjusting behavior.  

Common Self-Regulation Difficulties Faced by Autistic Individuals

As a parent or caretaker, you may identify behavioral patterns in your autistic teens that point to problems with self-control. 

These actions could include meltdowns or tantrums due to sensory overload and struggles in switching between tasks. They could also be impulsivity or acting without carefully considering the consequences or difficulty regulating anger or frustration. 

For some people, a crowded place with loud noises can be overstimulating, whereas, for others, a shift in their usual patterns or daily activities may result in emotional dysregulation. 

Social interactions can be tough. Challenges with self-regulation can include the inability to read nonverbal cues or acting without thinking about the implications.

Impact of Self-Regulation on the Independence and Quality of Life

What may seem like a basic skill plays a transformative role in enhancing the well-being and independence of autistic children. 

Besides promoting independence and autonomy, self-regulation positively impacts their daily activities, social relationships, mental health, problem-solving, and decision-making. 

Young adults who are in control of their emotions, behaviors, and sensory sensitivity can live comfortably, form meaningful relationships, and constructively cope with their feelings. 

These benefits help teens make thoughtful decisions and develop the self-assurance to achieve personal goals. 

Strategies for Effective Self-Regulation 

Young adults must have a fundamental grasp of emotions and functional life skills to develop self-regulation abilities. These abilities include distinguishing between various emotions and how each feeling appears both externally and internally.  

Effective self-regulation strategies are essential tools for developing this foundation. They work in real-world situations and can help improve self-awareness, emotional control, and impulse management. 


Co-regulation from a loving and trustworthy parent or caregiver can do wonders for an autistic child or young adult. The adults must stay calm and reinforce the self-regulatory exercises through example, serving as role models. 

You can help your teens regulate their overwhelming emotions through emotional support and demonstrations of regulation techniques. Focus on their needs. Provide guidance at the right time and help them develop effective regulation skills. 

Provide Sensory Support 

Catering the sensory sensitivities of your teens or kids can have a huge impact on their development. 

Create a relaxing and sensory-friendly environment for your teens. Make it a place where they can thrive and explore their potential. 

Sensory support can be providing noise-canceling earphones if you live in a noisy neighborhood and playing their preferred music. It can also be offering fidget toys or other sensory tools to increase focus and self-regulation.

You can also use smartwatches as a sensory tool if they have sensory tracking and calming apps with features that can help people regulate their emotions. 

Use of Visual Support

Some people learn new information easier with visual aid. If your teens are the same, use visual support such as social stories, visual cues, flashcards, and practical demonstrations when teaching them self-regulation. 

Visual support will help them understand expectations and social protocols better. For example, emotion charts can depict different levels of emotions, helping your teens identify how they feel in certain situations.

Communicate Clearly 

Giving direct instructions and leaving no room for confusion is crucial in self-regulation. Make sure you don’t confuse your teens when you ask them to do tasks. The best way to do this is to simplify your language when communicating with them. 

Reduce the number of directions and break it down into manageable steps. Also, remember to keep your tone calm and understanding. 

Do Calming Activities 

When confronted with an outburst or an intrusive situation, teens and young adults with autism could benefit from soothing activities. 

Deep breathing exercises and calming activities are all beneficial under trying circumstances. These acts can distract teens from the issue and help them relax. 

Let your teens decide which calming activity they prefer, and help them practice it regularly. Soothing activities can be anything from using stress-relief items like a fidget spinner or stress ball to listening to music.

Engage in Physical Activities 

Many sports require team coordination and high-level communication, which might not be an autistic young adult’s strong suit. However, regular exercise, such as yoga or dancing, can help release tension.  

Swimming is a great sport for autistic teens because it involves water play and fundamental strokes. Such activities can improve self-control, increase bodily awareness, and release endorphins, improving their mood. 


Providing for the needs of autistic teenagers and young adults can be challenging and overwhelming. But remember that it’s normal to feel that way. It doesn’t devalue who you are as a person or parent. 

Be patient. Remember that you have been blessed with a child with needs that are a bit different from others, and you must adjust accordingly. Help them self-regulate to improve their overall well-being.

self regulation autism