Inside Our Classroom

Milestones uses an eclectic curriculum to help our students master concepts.  Some curricula that we use include:

  • The Zones of Regulation “are lessons and activities designed by Leah Kuypers, licensed occupational therapists, to help students gain skills in the area of self-regulation.  Self-regulation can go by many names, such as self-control, self-management, and impulse control.  It is defined as the best state of alertness of both the body and emotions for the specific situation.  For example, when a student plays on the playground or in a competitive game, it is beneficial to have a higher state of alertness.  However, that same state would not be appropriate in the library.  The lessons and learning activities are designed to help the students recognize when they are in the different zones as well as learn how to use strategies to change or stay in the zone they are in.  In addition to addressing self-regulation, the students will gain an increased vocabulary of emotional terms, skills in reading other people’s facial expressions, perspective about how others see and react to their behavior, insight into events that trigger their behavior, calming and alerting strategies, and problem solving skills.” There are four Zones that students can be in:
      • The Blue Zone: Used to describe a low state of alertness.  The Blue Zone is used to describe when one feels sad, tied, sick, or board.
      • The Green Zone:  A person may be described as happy, calm, focused, or content when he or she is in the Green Zone.  The student is in control in the Green Zone.
      • Yellow Zone:  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, or fear when in the Yellow Zone.  The student maintains some control of himself or herself in the Yellow Zone.
      • Red Zone:  A person may be experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, panic, extreme grief, or terror when in the Red Zone and is described as being “out of control”


  • What is social thinking? Social thinking is a term coined by Michelle Garcia-Winner and it’s “what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And how we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions.  Whether we are with friends, sending an email, in a classroom or at the grocery store, we take in the thoughts, emotions and intentions of the people we are interacting with.  Most of us have developed our communications sense from birth onwards, steadily observing and acquiring social information and learning how to respond to people. Because social thinking is an intuitive process, we usually take it for granted.  But for many individuals, this process is anything but natural. And this often has nothing to do with conventional measures of intelligence.  In fact, many people score high on IQ and standardized tests, yet do not intuitively learn the nuances of social communication and interaction.  While these challenges are commonly experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (high-functioning), social communication disorder, Asperger’s, ADHD, nonverbal learning disability (NLD) and similar diagnoses, children and adults experiencing social learning difficulties often have received no diagnosis.  A treatment framework and curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner targets improving individual social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label. Professionals and parents alike are using these methods to build social thinking and related skills in students and adults. Social Thinking books, workshops and trainings, created by Winner or based on Winner’s work, now offer a range of strategies that address individual strengths and weaknesses in processing social information.”  Some terms that are used with social thinking include:
    • Expected Behaviors, Unexpected Behaviors:  Every environment has a set of unwritten rules that people expect to be followed, such as talking when its your turn, respecting personal space, etc. when people follow these rules, some of which are not always explained to the student, then he is considered to be “doing what is expected.” Students who don’t follow the rules are doing what is unexpected and people may have “weird thoughts” about them.
    • Good thoughts/ Weird thoughts:  All people have thoughts about other people. Most thoughts are good or normal thoughts, but each of us may do things each day, which can cause people to have “weird thoughts” about us. Creating a small number of weird thoughts each day in other people is totally acceptable but when we create too many weird thoughts in others, they start to think we may not be nice or safe to be with or that we just don’t seem to care about them.
    • Bubble Thought:  A thought we should keep in our head so that we do not hurt someone’s feelings or offend them. 
    • Smart Guess- Wacky guess:  “Smart guess” are guesses you make based on a fact or some information you have learned about a topic.  A “wacky guess” is a guess you may be asked to make when you have not been given any (or enough) information. For example, asking someone who has never been to my house to guess what color it is.In school, teachers ask students to make “smart guesses.”
    • Figuring out other people’s plans:  Observing other students in order to figure out what they are planning to do based on the actions of their body (ex. watching towards the pencil sharpener means the person is likely to sharpen their pencil)
    • Level of the problem:
      Using the 1-5 scale, we determine the level of the problem and the appropriate based on the level of the problem. Example of 1-5 problems:  1– dropping your pencil; 2– forgetting your lunch money at home; 3– breaking your arm;  4 —car accident with minor injuries; 5 — death, hurricane, war
    • Social Fake:  At times, we have to “fake” liking someone, being good at something, or showing interest in someone because a social situation calls for it. It is a critical step towards maintaining a friendship or even working well in a group
    • Superflex Thinking: A flexible thinking pattern in which a person is able to consider different points of view
    • Rock Brain:  A rigid thinking pattern in which a person gets stuck on an idea and has difficulty considering other options or ways to do something.


  • Extensive Emotional Regulation:  Milestones provides a range of mental health-related services in order to support students’ efforts and improve their overall school experience. Students may experience emotional dysregulation, social and performance-related anxiety, low self-esteem and difficulties with perspective taking. All students attend a weekly therapy group that provides psycho-educational information, experiential opportunities and direct skill instruction. Individual counseling is available for students requiring additional therapeutic support. Therapists are versed in a variety of treatment modalities including, but not limited to cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychodynamic therapy and play therapy.

    Within Emotion Regulation class, the Lower School students have used the Second Step curriculum, which is a classroom-based social skills program designed to teach students how to identify emotions in themselves and others, how to choose positive goals, and how to successfully manage one’s reactions to emotional arousal.  The curriculum is typically divided into various units and covers such topics as skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, and problem solving.  Each emotion regulation class is multi-modal, incorporating discussion, hypothetical scenarios via video and stories, and practice (i.e., role plays/exposures).

    Emotion Regulation classes for middle school students is most usually discussion based, though some elements of Second Step are incorporated as a way to further highlight or practice a skill.  Within middle school, discussions are most usually decided upon based on the needs of the students.  Topics that have been covered previously include: understanding friendships, developing leadership qualities, dealing with anger, and learning how to collaboratively problem solve.  Overall, all discussions are focused on developing and practicing active listening, perspective taking, and collaboration skills among students.  

     Emotion Regulation classes for high school and post-high school student are primarily discussion based, although there are at times experiential activities designed to promote understanding of a concept or development of a skill. The focus of the groups is on developing and practicing problem solving skills, self-advocacy skills, frustration tolerance and cognitive flexibility. In the past, the students have wrestled with moral dilemmas, been educated about mental illness and diagnoses, discussed issues that arise in the context of dating and romantic relationships, participated in activities designed to practice executive functioning skills and have completed a year long movie project.