Arousal Level Strategy

The arousal level strategy helps children and adolescents by facilitating awareness of how their extreme arousal levels contribute to misbehavior. As such, it prepares youth to for arousal level modulation towards a quiet alert state that improves behavior. The arousal level strategy uses consistent traffic lights and smells to promote arousal level awareness. Some children and adolescents appear to show improved social skills by using compensation strategies that compensate for extreme arousal levels.

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The arousal level strategy helps avoid confusion using descriptions and colors consistent with all four of the most commonly used youth sensory modulation programs. The arousal level strategy is consistent with the Zones of Regulation (Kuypers, 2013), the research supported Alert Program for developmental disabilities (Soh et al., 2015), the traffic light behavior system, and the ARC trauma program energy levels (Blaustein et al., 2010; Corrigan et al., 2011). The arousal level strategy can be helpful for youth with developmental disabilities who are confused by the use of diverse energy level systems. It allows youth to explore the relationships between their arousal levels, feelings, and social expectations in diverse setttings.


Therapists and teachers are welcome to use the arousal level strategy to promote a quiet alert state for improved behavior in youth with complex behavioral challenges.


Blaustein ME, Kinniburgh KM. Treating Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents. New York:Guilford Press; 2010.

Corrigan FM, Fisher JJ, Nutt DJ. Autonomic dysregulation and the window of tolerance model of the effects of complex emotional trauma. J Psycopharmacol. 2011;25(1):17–25.

Kovacs M, Lopez-Duran NL. Contextual emotion regulation therapy: A developmentally based

intervention for pediatric intervention. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2012;21(2):327–343.

Kuypers, LM. The zones of regulation: A framework to foster self-regulation. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly.2013;36(4)1–4.

Soh DW, Skocic J, Nash K, Stevens S, Turner GR, Rovet J. Self-regulation therapy increases frontal gray matter in children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder: Evaluation by voxel-based morphometry. Front Hum Neurosci. 2015;9:108.


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