Struggling with disruptive classroom behaviors? This happens! Children don’t always have the capacity to do exactly what is expected of them every minute of every day. Here’s one strategy we love – it’s always available, costs nothing, and easily accessible for all children. We call it space, time and movement.

Let’s break it down.


When a student is dysregulated, sometimes they just need space away from what is causing them to be stressed. They may be struggling with an assignment they’re working on, or a peer interaction in a group project. Space away from a stressful situation, even temporarily, paired with breathing can be incredibly beneficial.

If a student needs personal space, teachers can find a way to accommodate that. It may be that a student prefers to stand in the back of the room instead of sitting in their seat. If it doesn’t disrupt the class and it’s a process that works for you, allow it! Space away from the stressor can often be enough to help a student regulate their own behavior.


Time to regain control can also be helpful. Give the student sufficient time to calm down. Space away may also give them the benefit of time (two for one!). For some students, a minute will do. Others may need five minutes to reset. Invite students to estimate how much time they’ll need to regroup and offer the use of a timer as support.


Finally, movement is another great way for students to regulate their systems. If a student needs to take a walk down the hall or a calm, walking lap around the classroom, give them that choice! Movement may also be a simple as asking a child to do a classroom chore (like dust a bookshelf) or deliver a note to the office or another classroom. Any simple movement that has the child physically move their body away from the stressor can help a child regulate.

Space, time and movement are powerful when implemented together. You might say to a student, “This assignment seems to be challenging you. Why don’t you take a minute or two away from the task. Would walking to the fountain to get a sip of water help?”

We love this strategy because it’s so simple to remember. Next time you’re facing a dysregulated student, try to think about how you can incorporate space, time or movement.

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