When teachers, therapists, or parents use these simple words to begin the Alert Program®, they enter an exciting adventure with children. The journey unfolds easily with the Alert Program®’s clearly defined steps for teaching self-regulation awareness.
The book, How Does Your Engine Run?® A Leader’s Guide to the Alert Program® for Self-Regulation (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996), describes an innovative program that supports children, teachers, parents, and therapists to choose appropriate strategies to change or maintain states of alertness. Students learn what they can do before a spelling test or homework time to attain an optimal state of alertness for their tasks. Teachers learn what they can do after lunch, when their adult nervous systems are in a low alert state and their students are in a high alert state. Parents learn what they can do to help their child’s nervous system change from a high alert state to a more appropriate low state at bedtime.
Leaders of the program not only learn what they can do to support self-regulation, but how to share the underlying theory so all can understand the basics of sensory integration. By reading the book or attending a conference, adults increase awareness of their own self-regulation thereby improving their ability to facilitate students’ optimal functioning. The Sensory-Motor Preference Checklist (for Adults) is a tool used to support this learning process. For example by filling out the checklist, adults may discover that before work, they may drink coffee, take a brisk walk, or listen to jazzy music to get their engine up and going for the day. Or others may find that they drink hot chocolate, rock in a rocking chair, or watch the glow of a fireplace to get their engine slowed down after a busy day. Bringing to awareness what most people do automatically in their daily routines, fosters the understanding of how important self-regulation is for students’ functioning.
Although the Alert Program® initially was intended for children with attention and learning difficulties, ages 8-12, it has been adapted for preschool through adult and for a variety of disabilities. If children are intellectually challenged or developmentally younger than the age of eight, the program’s concepts can be utilized by staff to develop sensory diets (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 1991) to enhance learning.