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  • Writer's pictureLily Bodenham


There a few neatly packaged cognitive based programs out there that aim to help kids develop self regulation skills. They teach different emotions and link them to regulation strategies (usually self regulation strategies). 🙋‍♀️Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used these programs, I’ve done the training and they can work for some kids. But over the years there are a few things I’ve learnt that I really would love to share and prompt you to consider if these programs really are the best starting point when supporting a child with emotional and cognitive based regulation skill development.

We are learning so much more about the role of INTEROCEPTION and it’s role in regulation. Interoceptive awareness helps us understand how our bodies feel so we can the link the body feeling to an emotion. For so many kids, they are still developing this sense, so what I see lots of is a child being able to rote learn the concepts of a cognitive program but when it comes to actually identifying an emotion and actioning a regulation strategy there is a disconnect.. Because if they can’t fully identify what an emotion feels like in their body then in the moment how do they meaningfully access the relevant self regulation strategy?

Secondly, when a child is experiencing high stress, overload, experiencing a meltdown or is dysregulated they most likely do not have access to their prefrontal cortex (their thinking, reasoning, planning brain where self regulation is accessed). Therefore to expect them to utilise a regulation strategy in the moment is not reasonable. When a cognitive based program is used correctly and by a therapist or educator that understands the brain body stress response, they know this is the time for co-regulation and keeping expectations minimal. However I’ve seen too many times, the onus being placed on the child to self regulate because they are supposed to know ‘what to do’, which actually only places them under more stress.

So my first 2 go to starting places:

✨Interoceptive awareness and co-regulation strategies ✨

Because as Kelly Mahler once stated in an incredible training…


Lily Bodenham

Director/ Occupational Therapist

Excel Occupational Therapy

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