Brainwaves, Issue 16, Calm, Alert and Learning…The Canadian Book!

By | November 14, 2013

In the last issue, I provided some information about IEP’s in Manitoba including sensory strategies that could be included to promote a child’s self-regulation.  This issue includes information from a book entitled “Calm, Alert and Learning: Classroom Strategies for Self-Regulation” by Dr. Stuart Shanker (2013)…a Canadian!!

Brainwaves is a monthly newsletter designed to create some “brainwaves” within my community of colleagues, friends and clients.

In my “Understanding Behaviors from a Sensation Point of View” workshop, I use this image below to make a point about top down and bottom up strategies for helping children/teens regulate.  This is in the context that dysregulated little bodies (or big ones for that matter!) need a “bottom of the brain” or body strategy vs words and verbal demands.  Regulating the body will ultimately regulate the brain and allow for learning!top down bottom up


Dr. Stuart Shanker writes about regulating the body within the “biological domain” of self-regulation.  He defines this as including the level of energy or activity within the nervous system of the child.   He asks the big question…

“What are the regulating techniques that can be used to help children whocalm, alert and learning either need to up-regulate (become more alert) or down-regulate (become more calm) so that they can pay close attention to instructions and to the contributions of other students without disrupting the flow of the class?” 

This question may also applies to how parents/caregivers work with the child. 

In his book, Dr. Shanker describes his approach, including the five domains that are necessary for understanding the foundations of self-regulation;

1)     Biological      2) Emotional     3) Cognitive    4) Social    5) Prosocial

In this 14:30 minute you tube clip, he describes his work…

A quote…“we make a huge mistake if we look at self-control as a lesson, as a script…and if we look at a child who has poor self-control as somehow lacking mental fortitude, lacking this internal strength to resist impulses.  Rather, what we think is going on with these children, is that they are spending so much energy trying to cope with stressors… these stressors can be biological or social or both, they haven’t got enough left over to pay attention to their teacher, to resist an impulse, to laugh when somebody does something…the point is very simple… getting every adult … to try to understand the child…what is going on inside…use these behaviors that you see, that you find irritating and annoying, as a sign that this child is under too much stress and we have to figure out what are the stressors are…”

What is the most exciting is that Shanker refers to many common occupational therapy techniques and approaches such as the “how does your engine run” (Alert) program.  It is good to know that OT ideas are finally gaining popularity!! 

Check out more information and resources at the Canadian Self-Regulation Initiative at