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Given that speech and language concerns are very common with our neurodiverse children and youth, PRAGNYA was pleased to have Brittany Kalinowski, MS, CCC-SLP, present a workshop on Self- Regulation, Social Communication, and Executive Function Strategies at Home on September 17.

Brittany began her presentation by defining the role of a speech pathologist: to work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. One of the most important skills they work on with students is self-regulation, which is the ability to manage one's own energy states, emotions, behaviors, and attention in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals.

These definitions led to an explanation of the Zones of Regulation, developed by speech pathologist Michelle Garcia Winner as part of her Social Thinking® program. The Zones model teaches students:

  • Vocabulary of emotional terms

  • How to recognize their own emotion

  • How to detect the emotions of others

  • What may trigger certain emotions

  • How others may interpret their behavior

  • Problem solving skills

The Zones model uses a color-coding system to identify different emotional states:

  • Blue Zone tools: help wake up our bodies, feel better and regain focus.

  • Green Zone tools: help us stay calm, focused and feeling good. These are often proactive strategies.

  • Yellow Zone tools: help us regain control and calm ourselves.

  • Red Zone tools: help us stay safe and start to calm down.

Brittany then explained several social communication strategies to help students work on developing social competencies: joint attention or shared attention, the shared focus of two individuals on an object; Social initiation, the ability to begin interactions; Conversation Skills; and Cooperative Play/Hanging Out /Working as a Group. She then reviewed 10 key vocabulary concepts from the Social Thinking ® curriculum.

The latter part of the presentation focused on Executive Functioning skills, which are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one's resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.

The tasks of executive functioning include:

  • following simple directions that may take us to a different room

  • cleaning up and putting items away

  • inhibiting unsafe or inappropriate behaviors-avoid blurting

  • keeping track of time, more than one thing at once, and personal belongings

  • initiating or getting started on tasks and finishing work on time

  • being flexible within group dynamics

  • changing our minds and making mid-course and corrections while thinking, reading and writing

  • asking for help and seeking more information when we need it

  • completing homework independently, by age 7-20 minutes, age 11-1 hour

Brittany cited the work of Sarah Ward, a renowned expert in the field of executive functioning, and provided several visual examples from her website,, to help students develop these skills:

This planning grid starts with the end result, and then works backwards to help the student plan each of the steps needed to accomplish the task.

In this example, instead of giving the child a vague instruction like “Clean your room,” this picture of the finished product gives a visual image of what it is supposed to look like, so they can “match the picture.” This concept can also apply to organizing backpacks, completed work to turn in to the teacher, or other multi-step tasks.

Time management is also very challenging for people with executive functioning challenges. These pictures illustrate different ways to create a visual representation of the passage of time.

At the end of the presentation, Brittany shared some resources:

  • Zones of Regulation

  • Michelle Garcia Winner Center for Social Thinking

  • Make Social Learning Stick

  • Cooper-Kahn, J. & Dietzel, (2008) Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parent’s Guide for Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda, MD. Woodbine House.

  • Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen Cognitive Connections

  • Siegel, D.J., Bryson, T.P. (2011) The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Childs’ Developing Mind. New York, NY. Random House.

There will be a follow-up question and answer period with Brittany on

Thursday, September 29, from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM.

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