Forum 2019 Q & A: Introduction to Zones of Regulation

Answers provided by Meghan Green, PhD, NCSP (Psychologist, Social Emotional Support Services)

Q: Since the main theme in schools is still for positive behavior supports (PBS), my ES principal wants to see evidence for how Zones supports PBS. Can you tell me how Zones supports PBS?

A: Zones is not directly tied to PBS. However, it can be used to build many of the skills that you might expect or ask students to use within a PBS school. For example, if your school PBS system includes expectations for classroom, cafeteria, and recess behavior, those expectations rely on students having specific skills and a certain level of self-regulation in order to meet expectations. If a student struggles to regulate their response to stimuli, they may struggle in the lunchroom and will not be able to meet expectations and receive positive reinforcement. Zones could provide that student with a better understanding of their responses in a way that helps them recognize when they are beginning to become overstimulated and need to use a strategy to remain calm (or stay in the "green"). The student can then receive reinforcement when they are able to use their strategies effectively and meet expectations within each learning environment. Within classrooms, particularly, students can be reinforced for instances in which they choose to use their strategies to manage their responses in the face of frustration or anger.

To summarize, I would say that Zones could be a tool to support student capacity to participate effectively in a PBS system. It would supplement, but not replace, positive behavior supports.

Q: What are some implementation strategies that would be user-friendly for general education?

A: The Zones of Regulation book has many simple lessons and topics that can be incorporated into brief lessons. They could also be aligned with readings you may do in class (considering feelings and reactions of characters, etc.). All students would likely benefit from some consideration of triggers and coping strategies. Students might also be able to come up with quick lists of their strategies and triggers to help them and their teachers build awareness of what they need.

In terms of simple strategies to incorporate Zones into day-to-day usage in general education environments, using Zones check-ins with students (and staff) is an easy but helpful way to get a read on how students are feeling and what they may need. At convenient, logical times throughout the day (e.g., start of the day, after specials/lunch/recess, etc.) students can use a check-in to indicate what "Zone" they are in. This will help bring awareness about patterns of moods and behaviors throughout the day and help student capacity for self-reflection. Using other visuals as well, such as posters outlining strategies applicable to different zones, might be useful to incorporate Zones into general education settings.

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