A system for supporting sensory and emotional regulation in children with autism

The 'Just Right' approach is a programme created by SEN specialist teachers and health professionals in Brighton & Hove to help children with autism. It is proving a massive success and schools across the city and beyond have already received training on it or have requested training.

The programme is built round a scaling system, with four colour 'zones' to help children understand and communicate the emotions they are experiencing and how they can go about positively managing them. It helps them understand what makes them feel 'just right' and when they are feeling this - for example, when they are calm and alert and able to respond positively to whatever is happening in their environment.

The four colour zones are:

  • green is 'just right' - calm, alert and focused
  • orange is 'fizzy' - bubbling, not calm, anxious, possibly hyper-alert
  • blue is 'floppy or fidgety' - under-stimulated, tired, bored, not alert, possibly feeling ill
  • red is 'crisis' - unable to cope, exhibiting challenging behavious, wanting to run away, shutting down from the outside world

The colour coding replaces the need to use a lot of complex words to describe emotions - words which, to children with autism, can seem vague, confusing or even worrying.

The following video shows a child and his school assistant talking about how the 'Just Right' approach helps him.

  • The Just Right programme is tailored to each child. SEN Specialist Teachers work with individual children and their parents to understand, from the child's point of view, what each colour zone looks and feels like to each child. They also work with every child to see what can be done to help them feel in the 'green zone' as much as possible, look at what the triggers are that take the child from one zone to another and practical things they can do to help them get back to the 'green'. This might be things like:
  • making sure they have the same seat every day
  • making sure they get a short burst of exercise to either help calm them if they are in the 'orange zone' or wake them up if they are slumping into the 'blue zone'
  • giving them a quiet, calm blank space to retreat to when they are over-stimulated or in the 'red zone'

The tools and strategies developed with the parents and children can also be used at home, which gives a consistent approach across the children's lives.

There have been some incredible success stories with the programme. It is beginning to make a difference in schools across the city and a number of parents have told us it's making a real difference to their lives.

For more information about the Just Right programme, contact:

  • the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) at your child's school
  • the BHISS Autism and Language Team at BHISS@brighton-hove.gov.uk or on 01273 293481
  • the Occupational Therapy Team at the city's Seaside View Child Development Centre on 01273 265806