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Transforming Communities: A “Vision to Action” Self-Regulation Initiative. and Education Meet;. Supporting Safe and Caring Schools and Community Mental Health. Values/Beliefs and our Leadership Work. There are no throw-away kids and no throw-away schools

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Transforming Communities:

A “Vision to Action” Self-Regulation Initiative

and Education Meet;

Supporting Safe and Caring Schools

and Community Mental Health


Values/Beliefs and our Leadership Work

  • There are no throw-away kids and no throw-away schools
  • The overwhelming majority of the adults in our system come to work wanting to do the best job they can do
  • We need to work smarter together rather than harder alone
  • “Skill and Will” are not fixed assets. They can be influenced and increased by strategic action
  • Each school is in a different place in its development, level of success and sense of efficacy.

Leadership is about taking the school from where it is to where it needs to be.


Self Regulation: A Working Definition

“Different groups talk about the importance of the concept of self-regulationas it relates to their field. So we encounter everything from ‘emotion-regulation’ to ‘self-control’ to ‘self-regulated learning’.

But the underlying or core concept of self-regulation refers to “the manner in which the brain maintains physiological stability through complex feedback mechanisms.”

Dr. Stuart Shanker

what is self regulation
What is Self-Regulation?
  • How effectively and efficiently a child deals with a stressor and then recovers from the effort
  • Ever time a child has a stressor the brain responds with processes that consume energy
  • This is followed by restorative processes to recover from this energy expenditure
the difference between self control and self regulation
The Difference between Self-Control and Self-Regulation
  • Two distinct concepts, with different conceptual histories: self-control and self-regulation
  • Self-control: Plato’s view of resisting temptation
  • Develop self-control in the same way as any muscle
  • Child who lacks self-control is somehow weak
  • Self-regulation seeks to understand the causes of problematic behaviors, not suppress them!
stress response systems
Stress-Response Systems
  • Three core systems for responding to stress:
      • Social Engagement
      • Fight-or-Flight
      • Freeze

There is a fourth, very worrying stage, dissociation, which is a last-ditch mechanism for dealing with excessive stress

self regulation and trauma
Self-Regulation and Trauma
  • Working on self-regulation is especially important for children that have been traumatized, or raised by caregivers that have been traumatized
  • Shift from the Learning Brain to the Survival Brain
  • Chronic state of fight-or-flight, freeze, or even dissociation
  • Chronic fight-or-flight is extremely energy expensive, reducing child’s ability to pay attention, inhibit impulses, regulate mood, co-regulate







driving analogy
Driving Analogy

helpful for understanding the subtle adjustments in energy expenditure involved in regulating attention

  • To maintain a speed of 100 km/hr we are constantly pressing and easing up on the gas depending on the state of the road, incline, wind speed etc.
  • Learning how to drive involves learning how to smoothly adjust the amount of gas or braking required for the current conditions


  • Withdrawn from other students during parts or all of the day: during class, recess, lunch
  • Silliness, argumentative, difficulty with personal space
    • difficulty co-regulating
    • highly impulsive
    • poor assessment of, risk, consequences


    • Incoherent thoughts and communication
    • difficulty processing what someone else is saying
    • impaired short-term memory
    • impaired perception
signs of excessive stress
Signs of Excessive Stress
  • Chronic hyper-arousal
  • Chronic hypo-arousal
  • Heightened stress reactivity
  • Increased sensitivity to pain (physical and emotional)
  • Reduced ability to regulate negative emotions
  • negative bias
  • reduced ability to read affect cues, show emotions
  • Reduced ability to hear human voice
  • Blunted reward system
  • Increased immune system problems
the effects of excessive stress
The Effects of Excessive Stress
  • heightened stress means child has to work much harder to pay attention
  • negative effects caused by falling further behind, being yelled at, having greater social problems, etc., exacerbate the drain on nervous system
  • leads to a chronic state of heightened anxiety
the three stages of self regulation
The Three Stages of Self-Regulation
  • Identify and reduce Stressors
  • Develop Self-Awareness (interoception and exteroception)
  • Develop self-regulating techniques, learning what to do to mitigate a stress response and what to avoid
self regulation and adolescents
Self-Regulation and Adolescents
  • Why do increasing numbers of teens have low frustration tolerance or heightened impulsivity?
  • These kids are often withdrawn and apathetic, what we refer to as hypo-alert. What is at the root of that demonstrated disengagement?
  • What strategies can educators use with such students “beyond behaviourism”?
self regulation and adolescents1
Self-Regulation and Adolescents
  • What is the basic difference between teaching kids coping strategies and helping them learn how to self-regulate?
  • What can we as teachers do to change these teens’ trajectories?
self regulation and adolescents2
Self-Regulation and Adolescents
  • Adolescents and trauma: How do we understand trauma versus life’s other challenges?
  • Is there a difference between direct and intergenerational trauma?
  • What can a teacher’s understanding of Secondary Altriciality mean for our work with secondary-age students

A community of “learning detectives” (kids and adults)

  • Parent awareness and engagement
  • Influencing the shape of the day and the shape of the learning spaces
  • Progressive relationship with the medical profession and other agencies
  • Sharing the stories, celebrating the successes, one discovery and one self-regulating moment at a time

Where to From Here?

CSRI: Committing to a productive nexus between neuroscience and education


Join us on this learning journey via

  • The website:
  • The on-line book club coming this fall
  • A staff study/action research group
  • Recommending articles for colleagues via the website
  • Watching for the launch of the on-line “Matrix” tool

Catch the Wave

Again, and again I was amazed at students’ positive response to having input/control in their own learning/behaviour – this inquiry changed this dramatically for my students.