Arousal, regulation and sensory processing

Arousal, regulation and sensory processing

I wonder what these terms mean to you? Do you every feel confused when terms such as arousal, alertness, regulation, self regulation , or self-control are mentioned? If so, you are certainly not alone. And then what has all this to do with sensory processing? It can all seem a bit of a minefield!

Here are some definitions, but as often is the case, they only give part of the picture.

Arousal is the state of being physiologically alert, awake and attentive.

Regulation is all about learning strategies to keep the body’s systems in balance (1).

Self regulation is the ability to maintain, and change one’s arousal appropriately for a task or situation (2).

Why is arousal, regulation and self regulation so important for us as individuals? See some of the research and resources below.

If you would like to find out more about arousal, regulation and sensory processing then why not attend a course. Each course covers a different aspect:

Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder covers regulation as related to the sensory systems, how sensory processing difficulties impact on arousal and regulation, and sensory strategies that can be put in place.

Sensory Processing and Autism builds on the knowledge from the introductory course and covers the neuroscience foundations of arousal and regulation, and how to develop a problem solving framework to devise strategies to support an individual.

Making SENSE of Behaviour also builds on the knowledge from the introductory course and covers how vulnerability factors such as attachment and early trauma impact on arousal and regulation.

Ref: (1) Megan, F (2011) The Babysense Secret (2) Williams, MS, and Shellenberger, S (1996) How does your engine run? A leader’s guide to the alert program for self-regulation


Here are some findings on regulation from research:


Stress, trauma and the brain

Watch this video which explains why regulation is so important for educators.

No longer a secret

This book provides a useful framework to devise strategies to help an individual with sensory processing difficulties. There is a really helpful chapter on emotional regulation (self-regulation) and then lots of strategies to put in place at home, school or other settings. Definitely a recommended buy for your library.

Book No Longer A Secret cover
The kid’s guide to staying awesome and in control

This book is full of sensory ideas to help children aged 7 to 14 to regulate their emotions and senses.

photo of book cover
Why love matters

A great book if you are interested in neuroscience and development and want to understand how early development impacts regulation as well as emotional and physical well being.

photo of book cover


See all courses

Next course March 2024

Introduction to Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorder
View Course Group 4

Next course April 2024

Making SENSE of Behaviour
View Course Group 4