One of the most important emotional control skills that anyone can learn is the ability to self-regulate emotions. Zones of Regulation seems applicable whether as an adult or a child. Emotional self-regulation means the difference between catastrophe and a healthy measured response to an uncomfortable or stressful situation in life.

The Zones of Regulation

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The Zones of Regulation, also known as the Zones for short, defines a framework by which someone can learn how to self-regulate emotionally by categorizing emotions and mental states into four types of zones:

Red Zone

This zone describes a state of heightened alertness and intense feelings. The types of emotions that could be categorized into this zone include anger, intense sadness, and terror. These are the baseline emotions you feel when you encounter a fight-or-flight situation.

Yellow Zone

The yellow zone describes elevated emotions and heightened emotional states. However, the yellow zone does not describe intense emotional experiences – that’s the red zone. In the yellow zone, common emotions include anxiety, stress, and nervousness, as well as excitement and restlessness.

Green Zone

 In the green zone, an individual feels calm while still feeling alert. Common emotional states include happiness, focus, and contentment. The green zone is where the most efficient work and learning occur.

Blue Zone

Lastly, the blue zone describes low states of alertness. Typical emotional experiences in this zone include sadness, boredom, and exhaustion – the types of emotions most commonly associated with more depressive periods in a person’s life.

The Advantages

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Keep in mind that the framework of the Zone help individuals identifies the underlying problems in regulation. By categorizing emotions as indicated above, individuals will have more capability when it comes to addressing emotional problems in everyday life.

Your Traffic Signs

You can also treat the Zones like traffic signs you might encounter on the road. As with a green traffic light, the Green Zone indicates that everything is “good to go.” With the Yellow Zone, you’re going to want to be cautious as one would be when encountering a yellow traffic light.

In the Red Zone, you need to slam on the brakes and figure out what’s going on. The Blue Zone can be likened to a rest area sign you might encounter on a long highway road trip.

Your Environment

Another aspect of the Zones involves the environment in which you reside. On the playground, a student might experience the excitement and are in the Yellow Zone. While the Yellow Zone connotes caution if we’re keeping in style with the highway metaphor.

On the playground, this type of emotional state does not necessarily need to be curtailed. It’s an appropriate environment, in other words.

However, if the student is in a library attempting to study or otherwise focus on a complex task, a Yellow Zone condition may need more regulation. It also needs management to meet the expectations of the library’s environment of peace, solitude, and quiet.

The History of the Zones of Regulation

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The Zones of a Regulation system was developed by Leah Kuypers, MA Ed., OTR/L of Kuypers Consulting, Inc. Kuypers developed the system based on her history of working as an occupational therapist and autism specialist in the public-school system in the United States over the course of six years.

The Subjects

Her students often had problems with emotional regulation and sensory regulation. After working with these types of students over the years, Kuypers found that they had significant deficits due to their inability to cope with their emotions and effectively self-regulate.

These students were also punished for their disruptive behaviors rather than instructed on how to better manage them. After all, it’s not as though these students felt the desire to act in a non-social way – instead, they were compelled to by the conditions of their mind and the circumstances of their mental disabilities.

The Development

Kuypers developed the Zones of Regulation while studying ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders at the graduate level. She focused on addressing the unique needs of individuals with these types of disorders to help them prosper in life.

After creating a successful pilot version of the Zones of Regulation while working with her students, Kuypers further developed the concept into a formalized curriculum suitable for a variety of learning environments. The system takes cues from similar work done by Williams and Shellenberger’s The Alert Program and the Incredible 5 Point Scale.

The Purpose

To address the unique needs of those with autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactive disorder, Kuypers focused on executive functioning and learning styles. The result of all this work was 4 easy to understand zones that can help sort complex feelings into more readily understood categories.

By understanding the category they find themselves in, students learned how to better cope with their feelings and develop more gelation with respect to the underlying emotions. Learning activities that focused on these management techniques were further developed to bolster self-regulation in the long term.

The Basics of Self-Regulation and Zones of Regulation

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The ability to self-regulate one’s emotional state is of supreme importance when it comes to achieving successful life outcomes. This ability involves the following techniques:


You’re probably already familiar with self-control. The ability to control one’s impulses and avoid high time preference can lead to significant benefits. This is also related to delaying gratification and involves the ability to focus intensely on a task at any given moment.


Emotional resilience involves staying sane and balanced even in the face of intense or stressful experiences over a long period of time. Many individuals will encounter this type of pattern at some point in their life. The ability to be resilient pay dividends when it comes to maintaining a healthy psychological state.


Managing one’s life and daily responsibilities play a key role in ensuring that an individual can have a productive and healthy life. This type of management is intimately tied to self-regulation in an emotional sense.

Anger management

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Everyone feels anger at some point in life. The differences arise based on an individual’s ability to manage that anger in a productive way. Of course, not all anger will end productively, but being able to come down from an emotional high can pave the way for better responses in the future.

Impulse control

The act of impulsivity can cause major issues in life, whether that’s gambling, dangerous behavior, or drugs. Children who fail to learn how to control their impulses will face an uphill battle later in life because of their condition.

Sensory regulation

Children who possess sensory differences in their neurological condition, also get into trouble with self-regulation. They may not respond to sensory stimuli in the same way as non-affected children. These responses become unhealthy or maladaptive if allowed to continue.

The Zones of Regulation gives students the ability to use these techniques. Plus, the categorization system of the Zones self-regulate and manage complex or stressful situations. These come as full of emotional challenges and sensory input.

The Problem of Children’s Mental Health

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In the United States and elsewhere, children face a significant mental health problem. Up to 20% of children may face a mental illness or disorder that impacts the quality of life at some level.

As a result of this prevalence, the Zones of Regulation offers an even more enticing option. This quickly deploys in a variety of academic settings to enable students to better self-regulate. Subsequently, both short and long-term.

An Overview of the Zones of Regulation Curriculum

This material comes divided up into 18 lessons that teach a distinct concept related to self-regulation. In each lesson, questions and study session help students to interactively learn more about their emotional state. And, to correctly categorize it to determine the proper response.

In other words, the Zones of Regulation provides a “sanity check”. This allows an affected student to gauge the appropriateness of their behaviors within the context of their environment.

The types of instructors who teach this curriculum include psychologists, counselors, social workers, teachers, and even parents. Likewise, it helps for parents for a child with an autistic spectrum disorder or who has ADHD. This provides a level of instruction in this framework.

Who Gains the Most from the Zones of Regulation?

Ultimately, any student who has trouble with emotional self-regulation will benefit from the Zones of Regulation. However, students who have autism spectrum disorder such as ADHD, Tourette syndrome, opposition defiant disorder (also known as ODD), conduct disorder, selective mutism, or anxiety disorders stand to gain the most from this program.

It helps for those who experienced the symptoms associated with these disorders. The Zones of Regulation helps to provide a solution to the common issues that arise as a result of a lack of emotional self-regulation. Check it out today to see how you can bolster your child’s emotional self-regulation skills!


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