• 6 Second Pause

    Posted by Kris Baker on 4/5/2019 7:00:00 AM

    There are many times throughout a week (or even a day) that I have to slow down, stop myself and take a few deep breaths in order to keep my cool and not lose my mind.  I might use some positive self talk or even just try to think about something else in order to get my mind off whatever it is that is stressing me out, causing anxiety or just plain ticked me off.   I hate to admit it, but a lot of these situations happen when I am driving! This is not something that always comes easy or naturally, but over the course of my 40 plus years, I know I need some strategies to help me calm down when agitated.  Often, many students do not have effective coping or self-regulations skills to maintain an appropriate response to emotionally charged situations. As educators, this behavior is often punished and we fail to see that we need to teach these skills.  

    “Emotions are neurohormones; chains of amino acids that flow through the brain and body carrying messages.  Produced primarily in the hypothalamus, these chemicals affect literally every living cell in our bodies serving as part of our master-regulatory function.  Each “burst” of these chemicals, from the time they’re produced, to the time they’re completely broken down and absorbed, last 4-7 seconds. Thus, if we miss the opportunity of those six seconds, we miss the wisdom and energy the feelings offer; also, if we’re feeling something for longer than six seconds, we are – at some level – choosing to recreate and refuel those feelings.” (6seconds.org).  

    The goal of the 6 second pause is to help students maintain self-control and effectively self-regulate themselves when facing an escalating situation, or when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed.  The goal is to support emotional regulation by having students engage their thinking brain while putting their emotions on hold.  During the 6-second pause, the student engages the analytical part of his brain for at least 6 seconds (the minimum about of time needed to create an emotional interruption) by participating in higher-order thinking (goalbookapp.com).  This helps put emotions on hold and activates the problem solving part of the brain which can often be hijacked when emotions are on the rise.  

    Students are encouraged to pause, focus on their breathing and activate their “thinking brain” by recalling a list of 6 things they have PREVIOUSLY practiced when learning this coping and mindfulness strategy.  Some suggested methods to activate your “thinking brain” are:

    • List:  your 6 favorite places to go, favorite pizza toppings, favorite movie or book characters, places you want to visit, personal favorites of any kind;
    • Name:  6 states, friends, family members, colors of the rainbow, specific math facts, science facts, sports that do not use a ball, countries, continents; or
    • Try to:  count by 2, 4, 6, or 8, count from 20 backwards by 5, spell your first name backwards, say your phone number backwards,  (goalbookapp.com).  

    This is designed to be a proactive strategy so it is ideal to teach this to students and coach them through this at a time when they are cool, calm and collected.  Work with students to identify what they might list, name or “try to” and create a visual for the student to keep when situations and emotions escalate. As the adult, model this strategy in class and think out loud your 6 second strategy for all students to see and hear.  Take time throughout the day to have all students practice their 6 second strategy. Target talk times where they might want to employ this strategy such as before tests, before new situations that may make them nervous, before hard conversations, when new situations arise that they didn’t anticipate, when they meet a conflict, perceive a situation as unfair or receive discipline.  This is just one of many strategies that we can add to our students’ self-regulation tool kits and one that can be used anywhere at anytime.



    www.goalbookapp.com - Six Second Pause


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant


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  • I Don't Know What To Do!

    Posted by Kris Baker on 2/22/2019 7:00:00 AM

    Have you ever heard the comment, “you don’t know what you don’t know?”  Well, the fact of the matter is this, when some kids don’t know what to do . . . they don’t know what to do!  For some students, when they are confused, missed an instruction, or do not understand either an activity, academic task, or social situation, they may not know what to do, how to ask for help, what words to use to get the help they need or what their options are when they don’t know what to do.  This can be particularly difficult for students with executive functioning deficits in focused attention, processing speed, working memory, or emotional regulation. Knowing what to do, when they don’t know what to do can often be misunderstood as non-compliance, willful disobedience and defiance.  It's a matter of “can’t do” instead of “won’t do!”

    One way to help students when they are confused and don’t know what to do is to arm them with verbiage , statements and/or questions to help them get the assistance they need.    Using a script is an excellent resource to support students in this area. Wong, et. al, (2014) defines the Evidence Based Practice of Scripting, “A verbal and/or written description about a specific skill or situation that serves as a model for the learner. Scripts are usually practiced repeatedly before the skill is used in the actual situation.”  For our students, I highly recommend a visual script cueing the student to the language and coping skills needed when they are lost and don’t know what to do. The script needs to be pre-taught to the student, practiced and even modeled to ensure student understanding. I also highly encourage student use of the script to be paired with positive reinforcement.  Incorporating the student’s area of interest can increase interest and buy in to the script.

    Here are some example scripts used with students:  

    I Can Do It  

    For some of the big transitions that students go through when changing buildings, we have even created supports for students that target “What do I do when . . . . “ to prompt the right question or response to new situations in their new settings.  For example, what do I do when I can’t get my locker open, what if I need a test read to me, what if I need a break? We give these resources to the students when they come for the tour of the new setting and so that have it the summer before the transition to help them adjust to the new setting.  

    What do I do when

    Scripts are excellent tools to equip students for difficult situations and help them get the help they need when they may not have the words or the confidence to ask for assistance.  


    Wong, C., Odom, S. L., Hume, K. Cox, A. W., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, S., … Schultz, T. R. (2013). Evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, Autism Evidence-Based Practice Review Group


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • What? Why? That's not fair!

    Posted by Kris Baker on 1/25/2019 7:00:00 AM

    What?  Why? That’s not fair!  These questions and phrases are often what staff hear when negative consequences are enforced after a student has exhibited an inappropriate or maladaptive behavior.  Many times, when students are engaging in a meltdown or other behavior escalation, they are actually unaware of the present circumstances and how things got so out of control.  “During a meltdown, the child is literally out of their mind. Their emotions take over, overriding the frontal cortex of the brain, the area that makes decisions and judgments” (Driesbsach, 2016).  There are strategies and interventions that staff can implement before a behavior is exhibited to help students see the path of their behavior, both positive and negative, and help them process and understand the sequence of events when things go well, and when things go wrong.  

    “A majority of kids who have frequent meltdowns do it in very predictable, circumscribed situations: when it’s homework time, bedtime, time to stop playing,” explains Dr. Vasco Lopes, a clinical psychologist. “The trigger is usually being asked to do something that’s aversive to them or to stop doing something that is fun for them” (Miller, 2016).  Despite the fact that their pattern may be predictable to others, it is often difficult for students to see this pattern. Additionally, many children, if not taught explicitly, do not have effective coping skills to handle adversity and therefore struggle to stop the progression of their behavior.

    One effective way to help students see this progression, both positive and negative, is to use behavior mapping.  Behavior mapping visualizes for students the natural progression of events for exhibiting socially appropriate behaviors as well as maladaptive behaviors in whatever setting you are choosing to target.  For the positive, I want the behavior map to target the positive or expected behaviors and coping skills we want the student to exhibit, as well as the positive reinforcement for displaying those positive behaviors or using their coping skills.  Additionally, I want the map to identify the specific maladaptive behaviors the student struggles with, and what the potential consequences might be should the student engage in those maladaptive behaviors. See the examples below for elementary and secondary students.  



    At times these maps are beneficial to help streamline staff responses to students, especially when you have multiple staff members working with one student.  These maps help ensure consistency when responding to students who struggle with misbehavior and the potential consequences of such behavior. The map should illustrate for staff how the student receives their positive reinforcement, both contingent and non-contingent as well as how staff should respond should behaviors escalate.  Below is an example of a staff intervention map:

    Mapping 2

    Students and staff can benefit from seeing the path for the progression of events at school, both positive and negative.  It is important that we take the time to proactively teach students how to earn positive reinforcement and how to prevent negative situations that lead to negative consequences. The program, Lucidchart , is an excellent tool for helping create consequence charts and is much easier than typical word processing programs.  


    Free Resources on Social Behavior Mapping from Social Thinking ®


    Miller. C. (2016).  https://childmind.org/article/how-to-handle-tantrums-and-meltdowns/


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • What did you say? Do I need a pencil? What do I do when I am finished?

    Posted by Kris Baker on 12/7/2018 7:00:00 AM

    You should know that by now!  You know what I expect! You should have been paying attention!  These are phrases I hear often as I travel from classroom to classroom observing students for interventions.  As stated in my previous article, each classroom and each setting, from the hallway, to the library and even recess, have different expectations that we assume children understand.  Additionally, each teacher communicates their expectations differently; this includes all forms of communication from the words they use, to their tone, their cadence and the amount of information given.  For example, I once observed a teacher giving a list of ten instructions for a single spelling activity followed by a list of about eight other activities the students could do if they finished the spelling activity.  Keep in mind that the lesson not only involved different steps, but there were unspoken expectations with regard to the materials and supplies needed, as well as behavioral expectations. All of these instructions were verbal.  Many students were lost, and only remembered a few of the steps or started on the activities that they were to do when finished because they missed the initial instructions resulting in classroom consequences.

    Executive function skills such as planning, organizing , prioritizing, working memory, processing, sustained attention,  aren’t fully developed until the age of 25. When a teacher gives a list of instructions for a lesson, the students are required to use all of these executive function skills which is why they often miss some of the instruction and misunderstand some of the unspoken expectations.  When a teacher asks students to simply put away certain materials and take out other materials, using only verbal directions, some of those steps and expectations can and will be missed.  Here are a few suggestions that are quick and simple and benefit ALL students.

    First, for the take out and put away directions, how about having an empty model desk in the classroom.  Then the teacher can place only the needed materials for the activity on the model desk. This way, students can refer to the visual support of the model desk instead of having to ask repeated questions.  One of the other options is to place the needed materials on a document projector. This is a quick and easy visual support for those students that may need additional time, struggle with sustained attention, are slower processors or struggle with multi-step directions.


    One teacher, when the students are working at their seats on writing had a student sit at the document projector and complete their paper as a visual for all students to use.


    How about having your expectations projected in class?  You can visually define your expectations for any activity and identify other information such as  what materials, what work, how much work, and the expectations when students finish. This information can then be emailed to resource teachers, parents or students as needed.  Another option is to project a Google Doc with the agenda, materials, homework and other announcements. These Google Docs can be linked to QR codes for students to scan at anytime.  You can then send home the QR codes (for each class, period, or subject) for parents and students. The Google Doc can change daily for the different in-class assignments, homework and other announcements while the QR code never has to change.  See the examples below:


    When we provide information regarding our expectations, whether those expectations involve behavior, the actual activity, the materials needed or what students should do when they are finished, it is essential to provide this information in multiple modalities.  If you are only using verbal instructions, the minute you finish talking, your words, those instructions and expectations are gone forever. These visual supports allow the expectations and instructions to remain as long as each student needs them, and can be used at later times when accessed via the QR code, a Google Doc or via a class website or email.  Keeping our expectations and instructions clearly defined and visual benefits ALL students.


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • What Do You Expect?

    Posted by Kris Baker on 11/2/2018 7:00:00 AM

    I am an individual who has expectations regarding how I think situations should take place, expectations of other drivers on the road, expectations of how things should be cleaned and picked up when I ask my children to clean their rooms.  I also have expectations regarding how my children should behave in certain social situations, but

    those expectations change depending on the different social situations we encounter.  My expectations at a fancy restaurant are markedly different from my expectations when playing in the backyard.  At school, each classroom, each setting from the hallway, to the library, to recess have different behavioral and social expectations that we assume children understand.  Often children are being punished for not meeting expectations that were never communicated.

    Expected behaviors are actions or behavioral responses that are relevant and expected for the given situation; they are behaviors that make others around you feel respected and comfortable.  For example, sitting in your desk, a small verbal “yes” when you see you’ve gotten a good grade on a test, or maybe being a bit upset with a bad grade. Unexpected behaviors are those behaviors that are not expected in a given situation.  For example, crawling under the desk in class, yelling profanity at teachers when you get a bad grade, or crying uncontrollably when you don’t get your favorite treat in your lunch. Unexpected behaviors make others around you feel unsure or uncomfortable.   “The goal in all of this is to help our students learn to observe and interpret social situations more carefully and understand that behaviors are linked to others’ emotions, and how each of us feels about another's behavior affects how we treat each other. At the end of the day, when we perform the expected behaviors it makes us feel better about ourselves” (Social Thinking, 2018).  It is important to teach our children that their behaviors and actions can affect the feelings of others just as their feelings can be impacted by the behavior of others.

    One method to clear up the expected and unexpected behaviors for different circumstances and situations is to . . . (wait for it) . . . teach the expectations!!  For example, the expectation for my students at carpet time is going to be different than my expectations at stations. Going further, there are different expectations at each individual station!  Work with your students to identify the expected and unexpected behaviors for the different portions of the day. For example:


    You can process with your students the expected behaviors for the different portions of your day such as read aloud, whole group instruction, lining up, walking in the hallway, transitions and more.  This sets the students up for success instead of requiring that they read your mind to know that the expectations have changed. You can even create visual supports as a way for students to remember the expectations as they change from activity to activity throughout the day.  Here are some examples of visual expectations:


    Often expectations are reviewed the first week of school.  Then, we just assume the students know the multitude of expectations that occur throughout the day.  Once we work with the students and provide the visual support, we can ensure that students have several tools to understand the different expectations.  It is important to practice and revisit these expectations and then praise students for meeting these expectations with behavior specific praise. For example:  “Thank you for using the sound volume level of 0” “Sam, you did an excellent job of walking between stations” or “Stephanie, is meeting our whole group expectations by keeping her hands to herself.”  While teaching expectations may take time initially, research has proven that it will save you time long term and it will reduce classroom disruptions and increase on task behavior (Sprick, 2009).

    “I think a lot of times, other people try not to hurt an AS (aspergers) person’s feelings so they are not explicit enough about their own rules.” Luke Jackson, Freeks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome.


    Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC.


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • What Pushes your Buttons? Identifying Triggers!

    Posted by Kris Baker on 9/20/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Slow drivers, my children leaving wrappers around the house, putting clothes that have been tried on, but not worn in the hamper, leaving dirty dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher, that is RIGHT next to the sink, “borrowing” something of mine without permission and never returning it . . . these are things that just push my buttons! Triggers are either internal or external stimuli that causes an emotional reaction (Abraham, D. 2018).  Understanding our triggers and what fuels our emotions helps individuals learn to manage their emotions and cope with those triggers in an effective and beneficial fashion.

    It is important for adults and children to understand that everyone has triggers.  Zones of Regulation intentionally focus on students identifying their triggers in order to help them apply problem-solving strategies or coping strategies, and/or tools to effectively and appropriately respond to a given trigger (Kuypers, L., 2017).  When students are able to identify their triggers, staff can help students regulate around those triggers, remove some triggers when appropriate and give notice, when able, of in impending trigger (Kuypers, L., 2017).

    It is beneficial for teachers to work with groups or a class when processing and identifying triggers.  Some children who struggle with self-regulation, struggle to understand their triggers or may be reticent regarding triggers, thinking they are themselves the only ones with triggers.  When they see that their peers and that even adults have triggers, they may be more open to sharing theirs. Also, once hearing peer triggers, they may gain insight and understanding regarding what sets them off.   

    There are many ways to work on identification of triggers.  You can brainstorm triggers, and I suggest writing them down so students can process that information visually.  You can role play different situations and discuss if that situation would be a trigger for you or not. You can use pictures to help students identify what situation or events cause them to go to the yellow or the red zone (Kuypers, L., 2017).  

    Books are another way to help students work through events and life situations that can  provoke negative emotions. Some books to help students with this are:

    • Books by Julia Cook:
      • I Just Want to do it My Way
      • But It's Just a Game
      • Soda Pop Head
      • I just Don’t Like the Sound of No
      • The Worst Day of my LIfe Ever
      • Well, I Can Top That
    • Millie Fierce by Jane Manning
    • The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
    • When Sophie Gets Angry Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang
    • When Sophie’s Feels Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang
    • On Monday When It Rained by Cherryl Kachenmeister
    • The Grouchies by Debbie Wagenbach and Steve Bach

    Other Resources:

    I am sure that at times it feels like students go from  0 - 60 in one second. By understanding their triggers and even our own triggers, we can more effectively “read” our students.  Then, we can work with them to intentionally address their triggers and develop individualized plans to cope and self-regulate.

    Kuypers,  L. (2011). Zones of Regulation:  A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control.  Think Social Publishing. Santa Clara, CA

    Abraham, D. (2018). 3 SUPER SIMPLE STEPS TO HELP AN ANGRY CHILD RECOGNIZE TRIGGERS.  Retrieved 9/2018 from: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/help-an-angry-child-recognize-triggers/



    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • Incorporate Zones into Your Curriculum

    Posted by Kris Baker on 9/6/2018 7:00:00 AM

    Ugh - one more thing!  As a teacher sometimes different initiatives, activities and trainings can result in just one more chunk of the day that is gone.  By the end of the year you are spent, tapped out and overwhelmed. Maybe you are that way already. Maybe you are already in the red zone!  While Zones is “one more thing” I believe that the effectiveness of learning the zones and the associated emotional vocabulary enhances one’s ability to generalize these zones within the general education curriculum so that it isn’t one more thing, but a common vocabulary in your classroom used by ALL students.  Let’s be honest, all kiddos can benefit from self-regulation.

    The previous article, Getting in the Zone, shared different ways to create visuals to support the different zones.  When we are escalated, our stress levels rise and our processing slows down.  For this reason, it is beneficial to have visuals for students to use when escalated or struggling to communicate due to emotionality. The Zones of Regulation ® book  includes free black and white as well as color printables with the book to create visual supports that can be large enough for a class-wide bulletin board, or small enough for individual students.  

    Incorporating the language of feelings and emotions in relation to the Zones in the general curriculum is easier than you might think.  Below are some guiding questions that can be used with any fiction or non-fiction text.

    • What zone was the character in at the beginning of the story?  Middle? End?
    • What words did the author use to let you know how the character was feeling?
    • Did the character’s zone change during the story?  How? Why?
    • Did the character’s zone affect others in the story? How do you know?
    • List the emotions the character experiences in the story?  Place these emotions in the zones.
    • What the character able to refocus and go back to green?  If so, how? If not, what could the character have done to get back to green?  
    • What could the character have done to prevent going to the red zone?  What do you do to prevent going to red?
    • Choose a character from the story and list the emotions and feelings they experienced.  Is this person like you or not like you? Explain. How did this character’s emotions impact the story or other characters in the story?

    Content areas such as social studies and science can also correlate with the different Zones.  For example if reading about the Underground Railroad:

    • After a day of travelling, what Zone do you think the runaway slaves were in once they made it to a station along the Underground Railroad?
    • What Zone do you think they were in during a hot day of travelling?
    • What tools could have been used to stay calm and stop someone from going to the red Zone?
    • What Zone do you think they were in once the crossed the border to the north or Canada?
    • What Zone do you think the station masters were in when hiding fugitives?  


    • When learning about different scientists and their many struggles for success, failed experiments and successful discoveries and relate their experiences to the Zones they may have gone through on their journey of scientific discovery.
    • After students have developed a hypothesis and tested it - discuss whether they proved their hypothesis or not and how that makes them feel.  Discuss struggles they may have had during the experiment, what zone they may have been in and/or what they did to stay in the green zone.

    For Math, the book includes different methods for students to track and monitor their different Zones.  These activities can be used in data collection, analysis and graphing. Student can create their own chart in Excel or Google Sheet as a method of self-monitoring.  

    Zones tracking

    These activities support a variety of Indiana State standards and target skills such as comprehension skills, critical thinking, inference and analysis.  These are just a few of the many ways that Zones and self-regulation can be enveloped as part of the class discussion instead of an additional activity or lesson.


    Kuypers, L. (2017).  http://www.zonesofregulation.com/learn-more-about-the-zones.html

    Kuypers,  L. (2011). Zones of Regulation:  A curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control.  Think Social Publishing. Santa Clara, CA


    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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  • Getting in the ZONE

    Posted by Kris Baker on 8/17/2018 7:00:00 AM

    I am naturally a very routine individual.  Consequently, this means that the transition from Summer to the start of a new school year can be difficult because there are new routines to learn and “getting in the zone” is a struggle.  Earlier bedtimes, early alarms, a quickened pace in the morning, changes in time for breakfast and lunch can all throw me (a grown adult) “off.” Add to all of those changes a bus ride, walking in to school with several hundred other students, a new teacher, new classmates.  It is no surprise that some students struggle to self-regulate, especially at the beginning of the year. There is no better time than the beginning of the year to proactively teach our students how to identify and manage their emotions.

    Zones of Regulation is an approach to pro-actively teach self-regulation by categorizing our different feelings, emotions, and levels of alertness into four defined zones.  “The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of, and independent in controlling, their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.”  The goal of Zones is to coach students toward independent regulation of their emotions, how to react to the different emotions and to equip students with skills and tools to manage their feelings.

    The first step is to help students identify the different zones and equip them with a vocabulary for, and an understanding of, the different leveled zones.  The “Zones” are divided into 4 levels that are determined by our feelings and states of alertness.

    “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 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 also the zone where optimal learning occurs.

    The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions, however, persons still have some control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.  

    The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. Kuypers, L. (2017).  

    Create a bulletin board or other form of visual support, using the visuals included with the book to support learning and identifying the different emotions and linking those to the different zones.  The visuals below were created with poster board from Walmart ® and the included visuals.


    The picture on the  left is from Emily Windell, Kindergarten teacher at Northeast, she has a Zones station where students AND teacher indicate their Zone daily.  The picture on the right is from Hailey Priese at Isom.  


    You can use other resources to help with this process such as emoji flash cards that students sort into the different Zones via blue, green, yellow and red folders or envelopes.  There are a plethora of free emotion flashcards online that can be used as sorting activities and then included as independent stations or activities for students to do when their work is finished.  Students can also sort the different emotions into the colored zones with colored cups, bowls or buckets. You can have the students choose a card and either talk about a time that they felt the chosen emotion or something that might trigger that emotion and what zone they would be in with the given emotion.  

    Free emotion flashcards using photographs from Have Fun Teaching

    Free robot emotion flashcards from Mr P

    Free Lego faces flashcards from Encouraging Moms At Home

    24 Free emotion flashcards using photographs from Flashcard Online

    Free feelings powerpoint from MES-English (You can share the Powerpoint as a class then print the presentation as slides and use the slides as flash cards)

    Free emotion flashcards with optional blank faces from Simple Living Creative Learning  (Students can create the facial expression and label the emotion, then place that emotion in a Zone)


    Other Resources:  

    Zones of Regulation Website

    Free Resources from Zones of Regulation


    Look ahead A LOOK AHEAD . . . . The next article will illustrate how to model the Zones and how to target talk these emotions and Zones in your general education curriculum.  


    Kuypers, L. (2017).  http://www.zonesofregulation.com/learn-more-about-the-zones.html



    Kris Baker, Autism Consultant

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