Supporting Skills for Self-Control – across grade levels!

April 16, 2013 BY Kira Wright, CCC-SLP

This is part of a continuing series of posts on therapy ideas to support assistants (SLPAs) and paraprofessionals in the schools in their work with students and their supervising SLPs.

Over the last several months, we have discussed how attention, executive function, and memory can be supported within speech/language therapy. These skills, along with this month’s focus on self-control, correlate highly with academic success and play an important role in the development of language skills at all levels. The impulsivity that is a defining feature of ADHD can interfere with learning behavior, as well as being a barrier to how students demonstrate acquired knowledge.  Self-control skills allow children to regulate themselves – their own emotions and actions. Read on for information about supporting self-control in students of all ages!

Preschool/EI populations

Young children practice self-control skills when playing games like Simon Says (you have to listen to all the words!) and Red Light – Green Light (you want to keep running!). In therapy, you can develop these skills by adding new twists to these listening games, having “red light” be the cue to go and “green light” be the cue to stop. Add music from David Kisor to make practicing self-control fun and memorable! Dr. Gwen Dewar providesevidence-based tips on teaching self-control, appropriate for professionals and parents alike.


Elementary students often have speech and language goals around following directions. This is a skill combining receptive language, working memory, and self-control. Model and explicitly practice the verbal rehearsal required to remember a list of instructions. Talk with students about the distractions and barriers that can make it hard to follow directions in the classroom. Are there supports in the classroom to help them? The use of drawings, checklists, video, and other visuals can be effective in the speech room, and in the classroom as a support to all students.  


For older students, these skills are important for resisting distractions, planning ahead, and managing peer pressure and decisions in social situations. Model the self-talk that is involved with tackling a new assignment, resisting distraction, or solving a problem. Challenge students to estimate how long a given task will take them and schedule several tasks into a half hour. Were they accurate in their estimates? What about transition time or breaks? How do we account for those in our schedules? Learn more about fostering an understanding of time to support self-control and independent work habits in local Portlander Marydee Sklar’s course on the topic.

SLPAs and paraprofessionals should always operate within the scope defined by state and national licensing organizations and should only conduct allowable tasks under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist.

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