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Kid Companions- Chewelry: Apr 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

Self-Regulation Abilities Trump Intelligence

"Children's ability to regulate their thinking and behavior develops rapidly in the preschool years," according to Clancy Blair, associate professor of human development and family studies at the Pennsylvania State University and lead author of a study. "By the time children start school, they are expected to be able to sufficiently regulate attention, impulsivity, and emotion so as to communicate effectively and to jointly engage in learning experiences with teachers and classmates.”

For example, the abilities to focus attention when there are distractions, to not interrupt others and sit still, and to force oneself to do an unpleasant task are aspects of effortful control also called self-regulation.

Research has shown that even though a child is intelligent if he/she does not have the ability to focus and control their impulsive behaviors they will have academic and social problems.

“Therefore, in order to help children succeed in school, early school-age programs may need to include curricula designed specifically to promote children's self-regulation skills as a means of enhancing their early academic progress.” Those are the findings of a study conducted by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University and published in the journal Child Development

The following are examples of activities to develop self-regulation skills to prevent problems in the transition to school and the difficulties encountered in the daily school routine.

*Use Social Stories or cartoon strips on preferred behavior in public places or during school activities. More about Social Stories posted in this blog  here… and  here...

*Have visual supports to assist in remembering past and future events and the expected behavior during such events: calendars, schedules, planned up-coming activities…

*Develop the correct vocabulary so the child can express how he feels and interpret how others feel. Use photos, role playing, mirrors to focus on basic emotions like happy and sad. Progress to abstract emotions like proud and shy.

*Establish daily routines so the child can refer to past experiences to cope better as each day passes.

*Work on self-regulation strategies in dealing with why and how they feel because of a certain event or problem.

Parents, caregivers and schools can buy commercially sold teaching materials to foster self-regulation skills. One I found is The Alert Program.

The Alert Program, 'How Does Your Engine Run?' is a program for self-regulation by Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger. It is published by TherapyWork Inc

It provides a vocabulary and a great variety of practical calming and organizing activity ideas that are appropriate for many different situations. It also helps create awareness in the child to his/her needs and what he/she can do to control him/herself and the environment.

"The Alert Program is a simple, yet successful framework for supporting children (typically developing and as well as those with special needs) to self-regulate and function optimally at home and school," state co-founders Mary Sue and Sherry.

Another resource comes from Genevieve Jereb, OTR. Jereb is an Australian-born pediatric occupational therapist who has lectured on sensory processing disorders, both nationally and internationally. Most recognized as a childrens' singer and songwriter, Genevieve uses the principles of sensory processing theory to create music, songs and rhythmic activities for children with attention, motor and regulation difficulties.

Jereb has collaborated with the well-known international lecturer, Carol Stock Kranowitz (best selling author of “The Out-of-Sync Child”), in the course, “Getting Kids in Sync.”

Genevieve Jereb has also recorded five much-loved children’s albums — Jumpin’ Jellybeans, Cool Bananas, Say G’day! It’s Circle Time and No Worries “Kids will move and groove with these cheerful and charming songs, just right for strengthening sensory-motor skills, attention and stamina” — Carol Stock Kranowitz M.A. (Author of “The Out of Sync Child”)

Research has clearly pointed out the importance of teaching self-regulation, starting at home before school age and continuing at school. Imagine a child's potential for a bright future being extinguished in early childhood because being intelligent is not enough. This child's biggest challenge is to conquer his inability to regulate his thinking and behavior and his caregivers' greatest contribution is to help him do just that.

What other resources do you use to develop self-regulation skills?

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