How Does Your Engine Run?

23 Sep

The Alert Program is a one-of-a-kind program that allows children, teachers, parents, and therapists to choose appropriate strategies in order to change or maintain states of alertness. Children, teachers, parents, and other educators, are taught how to recognize when their nervous system is in a low or high alert state and then provides knowledge on what they can do to help regulate that nervous system to facilitate the optimal state based on the need (environment, demands, time of day, etc.)

“Leaders of the program not only learn what they can do to support self-regulation, but how to share the underlying theory so all can understand the basics of sensory integration. By reading the book or attending a conference, adults increase awareness of their own self-regulation thereby improving their ability to facilitate students’ optimal functioning. The Sensory-Motor Preference Checklist (for Adults) is a tool used to support this learning process. For example by filling out the checklist, adults may discover that before work, they may drink coffee, take a brisk walk, or listen to jazzy music to get their engine up and going for the day. Or others may find that they drink hot chocolate, rock in a rocking chair, or watch the glow of a fireplace to get their engine slowed down after a busy day. Bringing to awareness what most people do automatically in their daily routines, fosters the understanding of how important self-regulation is for students’ functioning.” 

Initially, the Alert Program was intended for children with attention and learning difficulties, ages 8-12. However, it has now been adapted for preschool through adult along with for a variety of disabilities. Due to the concepts taught in the program, if children are intellectually challenged or developmentally younger than the age of eight, the information gained can be utilized by staff to develop sensory diets (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 1991) in order to enhance learning.

What is self-regulation? 
“Self-regulation is the ability to attain, change, or maintain an appropriate level of alertness for a task or situation” (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). Having the ability to change how alert we feel is the foundation of every goal a parent, teacher, or therapist has for their children (or adult clients).

If we are in a low state of alertness (lethargic or “droopy”), we are not ready to learn. Likewise, if we are in a high state of alertness (hyper or overly active), learning is more difficult. Through the Alert Program,  self-regulation strategies are offered in order to attain an optimal state of alertness. The goal is to set up the nervous system for success and be ready to learn and achieve goals.

Why the engine analogy? 
The Alert Program uses an engine analogy because many children can relate and learn quickly about self-regulation when talking about their “engine” going into high, low, or just right gears. The engine analogy is just one way, but by no means the only way, to describe how alert one feels. Other descriptors might include:

  • colors (red for high, yellow for low, green or blue for just right
  • animals (maybe cheetah for high, turtle for low, and bear for just right)
  • Winnie the Pooh (Tigger for high, Eyore for low, and Pooh for just right)
  • Use the child’s special interest, especially if on the Autism Spectrum. (For example, if the child loves to talk about a certain movie then use characters from that movie.)
  • Adults might use the words, “high alert, low alert, and just right for ___ (fill in the blank for any activity)”
  • Children who are more concrete thinkers might do better with actual photos taken when they are in high, low, or just right states of alertness.

Reference: http://www.alertprogram.com

Personal thoughts: I myself have the Alert Program resources and have completed the distance learning program to earn CEUs towards my license. I think it is a fabulous program with applicable and thorough information. It provides descriptions in an easily understandable method and has great tools for teachers and parents. Have you used the Alert Program in your treatment sessions? How did it work for you?

Children’s Book Shout Out:

Images courtesy of: http://www.aapcpublishing.net/

Your First Source for Practical Solutions for ASD (Autism-Spctrum Disorder) as well as sensory processing deficits, self-regulation, behavior, academics, vocational skills, and more!

Scholarly articles supporting the use of The Alert Program for evidence-based practice

School-Based Practice Moving Beyond 1:1 Service Delivery. Edited by Yvonne Swinth and Barbara Hanft. Sept. 16, 2002. http://www.aota.org/Pubs/OTP/1997-2007/Features/2002/f-091602_1.aspx?css=print

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Integrating Methodologies and Team Efforts. Tammy Sarracino, Lynn Dell, Sherry Milchick. Jan. 14, 2002, http://www.aota.org/Pubs/OTP/1997-2007/Features/2002/f-011402_1.aspx

Neurocognitive Habilitation Therapy for Children With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: An Adaptation of the AlertProgram. American Journal of Occupational TherapyJanuary/February 2012vol. 66 no. 1 24-34

For a list of research articles please visit: http://www.alertprogram.com/research.php and contact The Alert Program.

~Amy

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