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The Five Domains of Self-Reg: Biological Domain

Shanker Self-Reg® helps us consider self-regulation and stress across five interrelated domains: biological, emotion, cognitive, social and prosocial. The first domain we are going to explore is the Biological Domain.

Stressors in the biological domain affect our physiological system, and take our bodies out of optimal function. This can include noises, smells, visual stimulation, not enough exercise, lack of sleep, and much more.

Let’s explore The Biological Domain further:

  • The development of a child’s brain has extensive implications for the early years and their effects on long-term mental and physical health.
  • A child is able to develop the ability to self-regulate by being regulated by someone else. Being regulated does not mean being managed.
  • Early childhood educators can learn to recognize a child’s states of arousal and up-regulate or down-regulate their behavior to maintain optimal regulation.
  • There are four neural mechanisms for dealing with stress. They are; (1) social engagement; (2) fight-or-flight; (3) freeze; and (4) dissociation. The brain uses this “hierarchy” for responding to threats. The brain will automatically shift to the next mechanism, if one proves inadequate to deal with the present stress. Social engagement is the goal.
  • A child becomes chronically hypoaroused or hyperaroused if their central control system for stress has become overwhelmed and loses its resilience.
  • A chronically hypoaroused or hyperaroused child has difficulty staying focused and alert, which is the optimal state for learning to occur.
  • Children who are chronically zoned out, hyperactive, and/or aggressive are not somehow ‘weak’ or purposefully acting out. They are experiencing too much stress for social engagement or their cognitive processes to cope.
  • We need to “reframe” not just children’s behavior, but parenting styles as well. Self-Reg was designed with precisely this purpose in mind.

Examples of Stressors in the Biological Domain:

Stressors in the Biological Domain, an illustration by Kristin Wiens. Graphic includes stressors such as being hungry, screen time, being sick, hearing difficulty, cold hands/feet, extreme weather, deep or light touch, food smells, bright lights and thirst.
Stressors in the Biological Domain, an illustration by Kristin Wiens

Continue the Self-Reg Learning:

Self-Reg Foundations Certificate Program

Self-Reg Framework 101 (individual access)

Dive deeper into the other four domains of Self-Reg: