Saturday, 18 November 2017

What is the difference between Shanker Self-Reg and Zones of Regulation?

Many people ask, "What is the difference between Zones of Regulation and Shanker Self-Reg?" While my own understanding of self-regulation is still evolving, my short answer is that Zones of Regulation is a program for teachers to teach students about self-regulation that is based on students having self-control and being able to self-manage - to recognize what 'zone' they are in and respond to move themselves back to a zone where they are calm and able to learn.

Shanker Self-Reg is a reflective process that can be used by anyone at any age. While there are five steps, they are not linear nor cyclical but iterative. In Shanker Self-Reg, we reframe behaviour, our own and that of others, by asking 'why this behaviour and why now?' We co-regulate with others, acting as stress detectives to recognize and reduce stressors so that we can return to a state of calm. Rather than using self-control to regulate behaviour, it is self-regulation that makes self-control possible.

More information on self-regulation and self-control can be found here.

The Self-Reg Institute has a great series of videos on youtube including this one on What is Self-Reg?

For those who are seeking a much more robust explanation about the difference between the two programs, I recommend reading this article by Hopkins, Shanker and Leslie which explains it far better than I can!  Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75. 

Below, I've adapted a chart from their article which compares the two approaches to self-regulation on a number of factors. 

A comparison of Zones of Regulation® and Shanker Self-Reg®

Zones of Regulation®
Shanker Self-Reg®
Leah Kuypers (MA Ed,
OTR/L, ASD Res.) – 2011

Stuart Shanker (DPhil),
The MEHRIT Centre
– 2012

A systemic, cognitive
approach used to teach
self-regulation by
categorizing all the
different ways we feel
and states of alertness
into four concrete zones.

A method for
understanding stress and
managing tension and
energy; a process rather
than a curriculum or a

Definition of self-regulation
“the ability to do what
needs to be done to be in
the optimal state for the
given situation”
A life-long process
Successful self-regulation
via three
critical neurological
sensory processing;
• executive functioning;
• emotional regulation.

“how people manage
energy expenditure,
recovery, and restoration
in order to enhance
growth. Effective self-regulation
learning to recognize and
respond to stress in all its
many facets, positive as
well as negative, hidden
as well as overt, minor as
well as traumatic or toxic.”

Central Tenets
Aims to teach students
how to become more
aware and independent
in: controlling their
emotions and impulses;
managing sensory need;
improving ability to
problem-solve conflicts.
In doing so, aims to
“teach students to
figure out what zone
is expected in given
circumstances. If their
zone doesn’t match the
environmental demands
and the zones of others
around them, you will
be teaching strategies
to assist in moving to
expected zone.”

Involves understanding
the triune metaphor
of the brain, the stress
response system, and
learning to manage
brain-body energy
and tension with these
guiding values:
Shanker Self-Reg® is a
universal platform (not a
targeted intervention or
behaviour management
Self-Reg is a process not
a program; ALL people
are capable of selfregulation,
no matter
the age, stage, or ability
Each individual, family,
culture, and community
holds unique Self-Reg
There is no single set
way to do Self-Reg;
There are no quick fixes; Self-Reg is a continual
and reflective process;
Self-Reg is for everyone, it
is not just about children
and youth;
The well-being of children
is inseparable from the
well-being of critical
adults in their lives.

Tools taught and Practiced
Sensory supports
Calming techniques
Thinking strategies
The Shanker Method®
Dynamic System of the
5 Domains

Intended Audience
Two to four students
with the same cognitive
abilities working with
one facilitator or eight
to ten students working
with two facilitators;
from 4 years old at or
above average intellect.

Everyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

Anyone (parents/
therapists [OT]).

Anyone (all ages,
cultures, contexts).

How Self-Regulation is Assessed/Tracked
Check-ins (or
communication boards)
Informal observation of
student behaviour
More formal observation
of student behaviour,
including data collection
and point sheets

Rubric for Self-
Reg Competencies
(educators assessing
Rubric for personal Self-
Reg (adults)
*Further assessment
tools in process of
being created*

Theoretical Underpinnings/Influences
Cognitive Behaviour
Central Coherence
Theory (Frith, 1989)
Systemizing Theory
(Baron-Cohen, 2006)
Social Thinking (Winner,
The Alert Program
(Williams &
Shellenberger, 1996)
The Incredible 5-Point
Scale (Buron & Curtis,
“Phases of control”
(Kopp, 1982)
(Dawson & Guare, 2009)
SCERTS Model (Prizant,
Wetherby, Rubin,
Laurent, & Rydell, 2006)
Theory of Mind (Frith,
Enactive Mind approach
(Klin, Jones, Schultz, &
Volkmar, 2003)

The Triune Brain
(Maclean, 1990)
Child development
(Greenspan, 1997)
(Schore, 1994)
(Porges, 2011)
Psychology of parenting
(Baumrind, 1967)
Secondary altriciality
(Gould, 1977; Portmann,
Homeostasis / fight-orflight
(Cannon, 1932)
Dynamic Systems
Theory (Fogel, King, &
Shanker, 2007)
(Waddington, 1942)
Coregulation (Fogel,

Tools/Resources Available
The Zones of
Regulation®: A
Curriculum Designed to
Foster Self-Regulation
and Emotional Control
The Zones of
Regulation® CD,
including 35 full-color
and black-and-white
The Zones of
Regulation® App
Exploring Emotions App

Self-Reg: How to Help
Your Child (& You)
Break the Stress Cycle
& Successfully Engage
with Life (2016)
Calm, Alert and
Learning: Classroom
Strategies for Selfregulation
The Shanker Self-
Reg® Tool Kit for
Parenting Magazine
Consultation for parents
and educators
Self-Reg eSchool
(Parent Portal, Portal
Plus, Foundations
Courses, Facilitator’s
Courses, Master Classes,
webinars, workshops,

Framework/Program Research
Described as “practice
based on evidence versus
an evidence-based
practice” (Retrieved from
Two research studies
completed and two
research studies in

Research in progress in
five areas:
The 5 Domains of Stress
Transition Conditions
Between Positive &
Negative Stressors
Reframing Scientific
Self-Reg in Practice
Review of Self-Reg

Basic Steps of Framework/Program
18 sequenced lessons,
30–60 min./lesson
RED: extremely
heightened alertness and
intense emotions
YELLOW: elevated
emotions and alertness
GREEN: calm alertness
and optimal learning
BLUE: low state of
alertness and down

The Shanker Method™:
Reframe the behavior
Recognize the stressors
(across the five domains)
Reduce the stress
Reflect: enhance stress
Respond: develop
personalized strategies to
promote resilience and

 From: Hopkins, S., Shanker, S. & Leslie, R. (2017). Self-regulation, self-control and the practice of self-regulation. Reframed: The Journal of Self-Reg, 1(1), pp. 58 – 75.

1 comment:

  1. Some responses to this blog on Facebook:
    Shannon Rowan Aylor "Systematic cognitive approach" sounds about right for Zones. When my daughter--who was very dysregulated-- was younger, she considered being told (or suggested) what zone she was in as name-calling. As she got older, it just didn't help--she needed ...See More

    Lisa Cranston Even as an adult, if I'm feeling overwhelmed and stressed, it would very aggravating to have someone tell me 'you're in the red zone. You need to get to the green zone." Kids (and adults) need to feel safe and soothed before they can get to the more cognitive work of problem-solving. And to feel safe and soothed often requires that co-regulation from a kind and caring other.

    Colleen Reddy My son was exactly the same as your daughter. We had a psychologist and an OT recommend the Zones program and we tried it but it just ended up causing more stress so we scrapped it.