Case Study CD (Life Skills/Emotional Regulation)

CD is a thirteen year old boy who attends a Social Communication Unit comprising of ten students within a Special School. He has a diagnosis of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD.)

Background Information

CD is a thirteen year old boy who attends a Social Communication Unit comprising of ten students within a Special School. He has a diagnosis of Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD.)

CD has difficulties identifying and regulating his emotions, which can result in his behaviour becoming challenging and difficult to manage by classroom staff.  He will either present as being very impulsive, pushing items off tables, grabbing belongings of others, or being sullen and reluctant to engage. CD appears to want to engage socially with others but appears unable to do this in a calm and organised manner.

CD particularly enjoys playing with Lego and completing board games.   His strengths are in Mathematics and Science with a preference for Mental Maths.  CD struggles with generalising skills to different contexts.  For example, he finds it difficult to independently buy snacks at the school tuck shop, which frustrates and upsets him. CD also struggles when losing at games, transitioning, completing work activities independently and paying attention. These situations typically lead to a build-up of frustration, which results in emotional outbursts such as crying, shouting and hitting out at staff and pupils.


  • Having difficulty identifying and regulating his emotions
  • Being unaware of how to act in a socially acceptable way, when feeling anxious and overwhelmed and also when enjoying an activity.
  • Receiving a build-up of sensory overload throughout the school day and finding it difficult to process and regulate this. (Sensory Resource)
  • Finding it difficult to control impulsive reactions and is seemingly unaware of the consequences of his actions on himself and others.

Priority areas identified:

  • Use of strategies and techniques which appeal to CD’s thinking and learning style. For example, use of visual supports and structured teaching approaches for functional use in a busy classroom environment.
  • To explicitly teach identification of emotions and strategies to encourage self-regulation, to help create positive social and learning experiences.
  • To promote independent use of strategies to build on self- advocacy skills.
  • To use strategies which incorporate techniques that meet CD’s sensory processing difficulties.


These were based on the book “The Zones of Regulation” by Leah Kuypers in collaboration with Michelle Garcia Winner.

Creating a classroom with ‘zones’ to provide a clearly defined area where CD can go depending on how he feels according to the emotional thermometer. The emotional thermometer is placed on CD’s desk. Each coloured zone is in a different area allowing CD to clearly distinguish where in the physical environment he needs to be. For example, the green area is close to the classroom’s leisure area and the red area is in a small corridor adjacent to the classroom where CD can be supervised but have some space from others.

N.B-This approach has been used in conjunction with other (Visual Support for daily tasks) such as a daily schedule and structured teaching approaches such as work systems and social narratives and scripts to help manage CD’s expectations of classroom life.


  • Classroom staff have reported that since this approach has been put in place, there has been fewer incidences of challenging behaviour and more engagement with classroom activities.
  • CD is able to independently use the emotional thermometer and takes himself to the relevant zone with limited prompting. On occasion, he requires some assistance to go to the red zone but records show this is becoming more infrequent.
  • CD is now helping to choose the activities, which are part of each zone to enable him to increase his self- advocacy skills.
  • CD’s parents have also begun to use this system at home to enable generalisation of the approach.
  • Classroom staff reported that sometimes it was difficult to transition CD back to the class activity. However, when a visual timer was consistently used, it helped CD to understand the concept of finish.
  • Classroom staff have also reported that on some days, CD only goes to the green zone, and on some days, he does not go to any of the zones but fully takes part in academic and social activities in the classroom.


Kuypers, L. The zones of regulation (2011). Think Social Publishing Ltd.

Gray, C. A., & Garand, J. D. (1993). Social narratives: Improving responses of students with autism with accurate social information. Focus on Autistic Behaviour, 8(1), 1-10.