The Zones of Regulation: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach

The Social Thinking® initiative creates differentiated strategies and treatments to increase cognitive development and social skills. Often applied to those with ASD, the Zones of Regulation curriculum is rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy strategies for emotional and sensory self-management. These tools can be applied from the age of four to adolescents and through adulthood to assist in conquering interpersonal social skills.

Available here

The curriculum’s learning activities are designed to help those who struggle with social skills recognize when they are in different states of mind, or “zones”, with each of four zones represented by a different color.

In the activities supplied in the book and often implemented by our ABA therapists, clients also learn how to use strategies or tools to stay in a specific zone or move from one to another. They learn and develop calming techniques, cognitive strategies, and sensory supports to provide them with a toolbox of methods to use to move between zones.

With the goal of assisting those with ASD to better understand why emotions matter and how to self-regulate, the lessons set out to teach clients the following skills:

  • How to read others’ facial expressions and recognize a broader range of emotions
  • Gain perspective about how others see and react to their behavior
  • Develop insight into events that trigger their less regulated states and why they feel the way that they do
  • Understand when and how to use tools and problem-solving skills

The curriculum includes 18 lessons with detailed questions and follow ups, worksheets, other handouts, and visuals to display and share. These can be photocopied from this book or printed from the accompanying USB.

The Red Zone describes extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions. A person may be elated, euphoric, or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone.

The Yellow Zone describes a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, individuals have more control when they are in the Yellow Zone compared to the Red Zone. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone. Many individuals with ASD believe the Red Zone is the only option when their emotions begin to heighten, but the Yellow Zone is the in-between, an option to catch themselves before they escalate too far.

The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone. This is the zone where optimal learning occurs and where we would like to come back to after experiencing emotions in another zone.

The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The zones themselves each offer a range of emotions to accompany many situations, environmental or otherwise, however, it is entirely plausible that an individual may be in more than one zone at any given time. This could occur when someone is too sick (Blue Zone) and may also feel frustrated (Yellow Zone) that they cannot go to a birthday party. Understanding what these zones mean and how they relate to each other is the optimal understanding of the four zones.

It is important to teach that all of the zones are natural and okay to experience, but the idea of the curriculum focuses on teaching individuals how to recognize and manage the zone they are in based on their situation and the people around them.

Learn more about the Zones of Regulation in the article, All the Zones are OK! Tips for Managing the Zones You’re In.

Teaching to Handle with Care when Working with Children with ASD

Handle with Care provides teaching strategies for those working with the behaviorally challenged population. The goal of Handle with Care is to ensure a safe and nurturing environment.

By teaching and implementing preventative actions that decrease the need for physical restraints, Handle with Care equips parents, ABA professionals, school teachers and many other professionals proper restraining techniques for the event that a restraint is absolutely necessary for the safety of a client or student.

Handle with Care believes that if staff work in fear and do not feel personally safe, then there can be no emotional safety whatsoever as fear will be the controlling emotion. 

Similarly, if the client cannot trust the staff to keep them unharmed and treat them fairly, they will not trust the staff or therapists to teach and provide the therapy they need.

Handle With Care is committed to the emotional and physical safety of behaviorally challenged individuals whose behavior may become harmful to themselves or others and the staff and organizations that support them.

In this video, Faith demonstrates how to responsibly remove yourself from an approach to then calm a client/child.

At Spectrum Autism Services, Faith Martino, one of our Clinical Assistants, and Abby Hawkins, our Office Manager, are trained to teach the employees of our company proper prevention, de-escalation techniques, and also proper restraining techniques.

A Handle with Care course is provided annually at Spectrum Autism Services to re-certify staff as well as certify newly joined staff. We believe that handling our kiddos with respect, despite the difficult emotional behaviors they sometimes exude, is not only morally fair, but paramount to teaching them the successful behavioral therapy they deserve.

Schools and facilities that use Handle With Care see on average a 30-40% reduction in injuries and incidents.

Handle with Care training addresses problematic behavior early in the cycle, thus reducing the number of incidents, injuries, holding times and assaults on staff, teachers, clients, private parties and students.

The following reviews convey the positive impact of implementing Handle with Care (HWC) protocol in professional environments:

For more information about Handle with Care, visit their website at

February 18th Employee Spotlight: Kristen Martin

Kristen Martin, B.S, RBT

This week we want to celebrate an amazing person who Spectrum feels privileged to call an employee!

Kristen’s career serving individuals with Autism began when her former foster son was diagnosed with Autism in 2013. Her passion was ignited and spurred a career in education.

During her undergraduate studies she served as an in-school tutor for children with cognitive and learning disabilities utilizing social and emotional interventions to improve classroom behavior.

In January 2018, Kristen moved from the school environment to in-home services working as an RBT. Kristen earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Liberty University and has completed graduate coursework in School Counseling at NYU as well as Education Policy at American University.

Kristen’s specialties include early intervention, verbal behavior, educational advocacy, social skills training, and community awareness. She is currently enrolled at Pennsylvania State University working towards a Master’s in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Thank you for all that you do for your kiddos and fellow employees, Kristen!

The First Steps for Parents Following Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

Has your child recently received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis?

You might be experiencing a gamut of emotions. That is okay. We aren’t here to tell you how to feel, as we have been there too. But what we can tell you about are resources that work for us with our own children at our homes and with our clients.

“I know for me, I felt almost crazy for thinking something could be a little “off” about my child, because everyone else around me was saying ‘you’re just overthinking it’, or ‘all babies develop at their own pace’, or ‘this is your first child, so you just don’t know’…. I was relieved that I wasn’t just imagining things, I followed my gut, persisted, and was able to finally get him the help he needed.” 

-Melissa, a Spectrum employee and friend whose firstborn was diagnosed with ASD.

We understand that everyone responds differently to this news, so let’s begin by introducing you to a few of the resources we have used to successfully inform ourselves and clients.

Get every referral possible.

Studies prove that some young children have the ability to make drastic progress when Autism is found early and intervention occurs. Begin your journey by making an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and requesting referrals to a developmental Occupational Therapy, Speech, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Contact your community services board.

This resource has valuable information regarding early intervention services, providers within your area, connecting you with medicaid waivers (should your child qualify), disability resource centers, and local support groups to assist you through the process. That way, you don’t have to do all of the google searching yourself!

Ask Questions

Call around, ask questions, and set up assessments for services. Not every provider will be the perfect fit for your child, or your family, so you should evaluate the agencies as well.

Educate yourself

Learn as much as possible about Autism and what you can do to support your child. There will be a plethora of information that comes your way. Try to decide what methods work for your family. Autism treatment is not a “one size fits all”, so some of this journey will be trial and error, and that is okay.

The book below,  An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn, is a favorite resource of Nancy Daly, our CEO. It discusses research on how parents can play a pivotal role in helping their young children with ASD.

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by [Rogers, Sally J., Dawson, Geraldine, Vismara, Laurie A.]

Talk to your friends and family.

It is important to have a support group, not just for your child, but for you and our partner. Some family members or friends may not know how to handle the news, so communicate what you need or ways they can help. If they care, they will want to be encouraging in the ways that you and your family need. This process helps show you which people are going to be more reliable, and who you may want to distance yourself from. You are your child’s #1 advocate, and you need the people who are going to only work with you, not against you! 

There are many ways to navigate the ASD journey you are on. We hope that this blog post has provided you with a few ideas to point you in an informative, and hopefully helpful, direction.

Children with ASD and Chewing

Many children chew and/or mouth inedible objects (ie: necklaces, toys, clothing). This behavior is especially common amongst children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as it is an effective way to self regulate. The oral sensory input provided can also promote attention to a task, relieve anxiety, reduce fear and combat  sensory overload. 

We advise parents not to treat “Stimming”, self stimulatory behaviors such as chewing, as maladaptive behaviors that must be stopped, but instead understand its helpful benefits to our loved ones with ASD.

Oral sensory activities can calm children with ASD, and can be an appropriate outlet while learning and performing other daily tasks.

Here are some examples of ways our BCBAs encourage safe and socially appropriate oral sensory activities:

-Drinking from a water bottle with a dense straw:

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-Using resistive chewing on chew friendly items (these are a few items we use here at Spectrum):

Dog Tag Chewy Beads 


Lego Lookalike Chew Necklace


Chewy Tubes


Shark Tooth Sensory Teether



To find other items on amazon that are chew friendly, simply search “sensory teether” to discover more options.

We hope you find the resources we use beneficial. Feel free to comment with any additional ideas or questions!