• Hannah OT

#High Five to Friday

Well here we are at the end of the week, well done to everyone! I hope that this post finds you all well and having had a reasonably unscathed week - meltdown free (both yours and your children:-) ). The reality is of course that this week is likely to have been hard going on all of you! Try to rest this weekend, and make a distinction between the working week and weekend for your child - I know we can’t go anyway, but perhaps you can make distinctions in other ways such as eating ‘weekend’ food, staying up and waking up a little later as it is the ‘weekend’, watching a movie, doing different activities or just simply having more choice time etc. I would still plan your weekend days as all children like to know what is happening and when, but unlike your weekdays this plan will be loser and consist of usual weekend activities. In our house we are going to go on an extra long bike ride, have a games evening, watch a movie and stay in our pjs (as throughout the week we get up usual time and get dressed ready for ‘school’).

Now down to today’s topic - signs of dysregulation… I’m sure most of you are very familiar with your child’s signs of meltdown or the stressors that can lead to meltdown, but sometimes we as parents miss the subtle signs that may not lead to a meltdown as such, but may increase or decrease our child’s internal metronome beat, and therefore affect their ability to engage throughout the day - this may not be long lasting, but it can often mean that they might miss out on a vital part of instructions around a task which can have a spiral effect e.g. they are not able to focus on the instruction, they don’t follow it, we get frustrated that they haven’t listened, we tell them off, they have a feeling of shame and become defensive, they argue back, we tell them off for being rude, an argument irrupts and before you know it we’re in meltdown territory and we don’t even know how we got there!

I have often observed children in the classroom environment that are clearly so focused on regulating themselves (spinning, feeling clothes, blinking, shaking their head, rocking) that they have missed the initial step to a task and have spent the next 10-15 minutes in a catch up state. I witness the same at home with my own child, and I often have to remind myself that these little (and big) people often have quite a task on their hands to self-regulate in an appropriate way to be able to meet all the demands of their environment. We must always remember the impact that the state of arousal has on our children - if they are not at this ‘just right’ level of arousal or indeed if they are focused on trying to bring themselves ‘up’ or ‘down’ they are not able to access their executive functions of attention, focus, memory, emotion, activation and effort (

Signs of Dysregulation

The signs of dysregulation can often be obvious, but in other cases really subtle. Always remember that these actions are not deliberate as they are being performed unconsciously!


  • Pacing

  • Big movements such as rocking or jumping

  • Voice becomes louder

  • Speed of speaking increases or decreases

  • Children may flop/ strop

  • Starting to climb/ jump on people and objects

  • Throwing and tipping

  • Children’s response may become snappy or they may not respond at all

Subtle (can often be misconstrued as tired or not listening):

  • Begin to slouch in their chair

  • Need to support their heads with their hand at the table

  • Tapping of feet

  • Chewing of a pen/pencil

  • Pupils - glazed or not focused

  • Spinning of objects

  • Fidgeting

  • Changing positions (ants in their pants style)

  • Small movements of head and torso

  • Humming

  • Feeling of material

  • Pinging of elastic in trousers, socks or tights

  • Biting of nails

  • Picking of nails

These subtle signs are probably things that your child needs to do to self-regulate and may not necessarily be warning signs, but they will give you an indication of whether or not your child is regulated and whether or not you might be able to support them in more effectively self-regulating e.g. could you suggest a movement break, a change of task, or a fidget toy which will give them more feedback faster and therefore support them to engage quicker?

I hope you have found this week’s posts useful! I will be back next week to look at movement breaks and the sensory systems in more depth. Please do comment or get in touch with me via email if you would like more information or something particularly covered.

Happy weekend all! Stay safe and see you on Monday morning for week 2:-)

Hannah OT:-)

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