• Impulse control is a crucial aspect of executive functioning that enables individuals to regulate their behavior and make appropriate decisions.
  • Accommodations can help individuals manage their impulses and improve their ability to function in different settings.
  • Understanding the challenges associated with impulse control and implementing effective accommodation techniques can help individuals achieve their goals and enhance their quality of life.

Do you remember back when Britney Spears shaved her head? Since we know that she struggles with mental health issues sometimes, she likely struggles with executive function skills and impulse control.

I think going out for the evening and coming home with a shaved head is an example of lacking impulse control skills.

Impulse control is a crucial aspect of executive functioning that enables individuals to regulate their behavior and make appropriate decisions.

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A person demonstrating their impulse control by holding a black book with the word "buy" on it.

However, some people may struggle with impulse control due to various reasons, including neurological conditions, developmental disorders, or mental health issues.

Understanding Impulse Control Impulse control refers to the ability to resist immediate gratification and delay rewards to achieve long-term goals. It involves inhibiting impulsive behaviors, thoughts, or emotions that may interfere with one’s ability to function effectively.

The inability to plan results in lack of impulse control. It is explained well in the video below which is a must watch.

We’ve probably all used the term “impulse purchase” to describe something we bought. And that’s just what this is about. Deciding to do something or purchase something without weighing out all the consequences.

Impulse control is a critical skill that enables individuals to make appropriate decisions, regulate their emotions, and manage their behavior in different settings, such as school, work, or social situations.

But, some people weigh out all the pros and cons of a decision, and still sometimes make a decision we would not make. That is not the same thing.

Also Read: IEP Goals for Impulse Control

A woman is exhibiting impulse control challenges as she holds her head in front of her laptop.
Everyone makes bad decisions sometimes.

Understanding Impulse Control

Impulse control is the ability to resist immediate urges and impulses in favor of long-term goals and values. It is an essential aspect of self-regulation, which is necessary for healthy social and emotional functioning.

Individuals who struggle with impulse control may engage in risky or impulsive behaviors that can lead to negative consequences, such as addiction, financial problems, or legal issues. We watch a lot of sports on TV at my house, and you frequently see pro athletes do this. Antonio Brown comes to mind. He infamously took his stuff off and walked off the field, mid-game.

But, of course, since not everyone discloses their cognitive history, we don’t know if these folks struggle with mental health issues resulting in a lack of EF skills or not.

I’m not making excuses for anyone. But, for kids who already have a diagnosis that is connected with lack of EF and impulse control, we need to consider “can’t” before we consider the “won’t.”

Impulse control is particularly important in academic and work settings, where individuals must be able to focus and prioritize tasks in order to be successful. In addition, it is important in personal relationships, where individuals must be able to regulate their emotions and behavior in order to maintain healthy relationships with others.

Making a bad decision that results in negative consequences can lead to other problems with trust (from others), confidence, and self-esteem. I believe Antonio Brown has not been signed nor played football since that infamous day he made a spectacle of himself.

The football player, known for his lack of impulse control, is waving his arms in the air.
Impulsive decision? Ability to not do this? We’ll never know. But he never played again after this incident.

Those negative consequences may be:

  • loss of money
  • not “winning” when it’s a game- or sport-related decision
  • punishment or disciplinary consequences
  • safety issues or safety consequences
  • not being happy, filled with regret

We all have made decisions that we regret. However due to ADHD and other conditions, some people are more prone to lacking this important EF skill.

A blackboard with writing on it, showcasing impulse control accommodations.
A male student raising his arm to ask a question in the classroom. One lacking impulse control may blurt out in class.

Neurological Basis

Impulse control is primarily regulated by the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functions such as planning, decision-making, and self-control. The prefrontal cortex is connected to other brain parts, including the amygdala and basal ganglia, which are involved in emotional processing and reward-seeking behavior.

Research has shown that individuals with poor impulse control may have differences in the structure and function of the prefrontal cortex and other brain regions involved in self-regulation.

For example, some studies have found that individuals with addiction or impulse control disorders may have reduced gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, which may contribute to their difficulties with self-control.

Overall, understanding impulse control is important for individuals who struggle with self-regulation and for educators, employers, and mental health professionals who work with these individuals.

By understanding the neurological basis of impulse control, it may be possible to develop effective interventions and accommodations to help individuals improve their self-regulation skills and achieve their goals.

Individuals with impulse control challenges may experience difficulties in a variety of settings, including educational and social environments.

But until a student develops the ability to plan, they will exhibit a lack of impulse control. Watch the video provided as that SLP does a great job explaining the ability to plan.

Impulse Control at School

In classrooms, students with impulse control challenges may struggle to focus on classwork and have difficulty completing assignments. They may also be more likely to interrupt the teacher or other students, disrupting the learning process for everyone involved.

To help these students succeed, educators can provide a variety of accommodations, such as:

  • Frequent breaks: Allowing students to take short breaks can help them refocus and stay on task.
  • Visual aids: Using visual aids, such as charts or diagrams, can help students better understand complex concepts and stay engaged in the learning process.
  • Alternative seating: Providing alternative seating options, such as a standing desk or a fidget cushion, can help students who struggle to sit still and stay focused.
A hairdresser providing accommodations for impulse control while cutting a woman's hair.
Don’t do it! Don’t lose impulse control and cut all your hair off or get bangs!

In Social Interactions

Individuals with impulse control challenges may struggle to regulate their emotions and behavior in social situations. They may be more likely to interrupt others, make inappropriate comments, or engage in impulsive behaviors.

To help these individuals navigate social situations more effectively, some accommodations that may be helpful include:

  • Social skills training: Teaching individuals specific social skills, such as initiating and maintaining a conversation, can help them feel more confident and capable in social situations.
  • Behavioral contracts: Developing a behavioral contract that outlines specific expectations and consequences can help individuals better understand appropriate behavior in social situations.
  • Role-playing exercises: Practicing social situations through role-playing exercises can help individuals build confidence and develop effective communication skills.

By providing accommodations tailored to the specific needs of individuals with impulse control challenges, educators and others can help them succeed in various settings.

Impulse Control Accommodation Techniques

Impulse control accommodations are designed to help individuals with impulse control issues manage their behavior and emotions effectively. Several accommodation techniques can be used to help individuals with impulse control issues.

Behavioral Interventions

Behavioral interventions are one of the most common types of accommodations used to help individuals with impulse control issues. These interventions are designed to help individuals learn new behaviors and skills that will help them manage their impulses. Some common behavioral interventions include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their impulse control issues.
  • Social skills training: This type of training helps individuals learn how to interact with others in a positive and appropriate manner.
  • Relaxation techniques: These techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help individuals manage stress and anxiety, which can contribute to impulse control issues.

Environmental Accommodations

Environmental adjustments are another type of accommodation that can be used to help individuals with impulse control issues. These adjustments are designed to modify the individual’s environment to reduce the likelihood of impulsive behavior. Some common environmental adjustments include:

  • Reducing distractions: This can be done by creating a quiet workspace or using noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Minimizing triggers: This can be done by removing items or situations that trigger impulsive behavior.
  • Providing structure: This can be done by creating a routine or schedule that helps the individual stay on track.

Assistive Technologies

Assistive technologies are tools and devices that can be used to help individuals with impulse control issues. These technologies are designed to provide support and assistance in managing impulsive behavior. Some common assistive technologies include:

  • Reminder apps: These apps can be used to create reminders for important tasks or events.
  • Time-management apps: These apps can be used to create schedules and reminders for important tasks.
  • Self-monitoring apps: These apps can be used to track behavior and provide feedback on progress.

Overall, several accommodation techniques can be used to help individuals with impulse control issues. By using a combination of behavioral interventions, environmental adjustments, and assistive technologies, individuals can learn to manage their impulses and improve their overall quality of life.

Implementing Accommodations

When it comes to implementing accommodations for individuals with impulse control issues, there are a variety of strategies that can be used in different settings. Here are some examples of accommodations that can make a difference in school, work, and daily life.

School-Based Strategies

In the classroom, accommodations can help students with impulse control issues stay on task and manage their behavior. Some examples of effective accommodations include:

  • Extended time on assignments and tests
  • Breaks during class or testing to allow for movement and sensory regulation
  • Small group or one-on-one instruction to reduce distractions
  • Use of a behavior contract or point system to reinforce positive behavior
  • Use of assistive technology, such as noise-cancelling headphones or a fidget toy

Workplace Adjustments

In the workplace, accommodations can help individuals with impulse control issues be more productive and successful. Some examples of effective accommodations include:

  • A quiet workspace with minimal distractions
  • Clear and consistent instructions and expectations
  • A flexible schedule to allow for breaks and self-regulation
  • Use of a task list or planner to help with organization and time management
  • Access to an employee assistance program or other mental health resources

Home and Daily Life

In daily life, accommodations can help individuals with impulse control issues manage their behavior and improve their quality of life. Some examples of effective accommodations include:

  • Use of a visual schedule or routine to help with time management and planning
  • Regular exercise or physical activity to reduce stress and improve mood
  • Use of mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing or meditation, to improve self-regulation
  • Access to therapy or counseling to address underlying mental health issues
  • Use of a support animal to provide emotional support and reduce anxiety

By implementing these accommodations, individuals with impulse control issues can better manage their behavior and improve their overall functioning in different settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are effective intervention strategies for adults with impulsive behavior?

Effective intervention strategies for adults with impulsive behavior include cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and medication management. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors, while mindfulness-based interventions help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Medication management can also be effective in treating impulsive behavior, particularly for individuals with underlying mental health conditions.

How can occupational therapy help with impulse control goals?

Occupational therapy can help individuals with impulse control goals by providing strategies for self-regulation and sensory processing. Occupational therapists work with individuals to identify triggers for impulsive behavior and develop coping strategies to manage those triggers.

They may also use sensory integration techniques to help individuals regulate their emotions and behavior.

What techniques can be used to improve impulse control in children?

Techniques that can be used to improve impulse control in children include self-monitoring, self-instruction, and relaxation techniques. Self-monitoring involves teaching children to recognize their own impulsive behaviors and monitor their progress in controlling those behaviors.

Self-instruction involves teaching children to talk themselves through situations that may trigger impulsive behavior. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and visualization, can also be helpful in managing impulsive behavior.

Can you suggest some activities that aid in managing impulse control in kids?

Activities that aid in managing impulse control in kids include yoga, martial arts, and team sports. These activities help children develop self-regulation skills, such as self-control, focus, and discipline. They also provide opportunities for children to practice social skills, such as teamwork and communication.

What are some impulse control strategies specifically for students with ADHD?

Impulse control strategies specifically for students with ADHD include creating a structured environment, setting clear expectations, and using positive reinforcement. Creating a structured environment can help students with ADHD stay on task and avoid distractions.

Setting clear expectations can help students understand what is expected of them and what consequences they may face if they do not meet those expectations. Positive reinforcement, such as praise and rewards, can also be effective in encouraging students to exhibit positive behaviors.

How should one discipline a child who struggles with impulse control issues?

Disciplining a child who struggles with impulse control issues requires a balanced approach that emphasizes positive reinforcement and consequences for negative behavior. It is important to set clear expectations and communicate those expectations to the child. When the child exhibits positive behaviors, it is important to provide praise and rewards.

When the child exhibits negative behaviors, consequences should be applied consistently and fairly. It is also important to work with the child to develop coping strategies to manage impulsive behavior.

Impulse Control Accommodations

My favorite site for evidence-based….well……everything is Intervention Central. They are an excellent source for successful academic and behavioral interventions.

Yes, these are behavior-based interventions. This assumes that the student has the skill set and only needs reinforcement to use the skill.

If a child lacks a skill, you cannot reward and punish a skill into the child. You must teach the underlying lacking skill.

Here are a few good suggestions:

  • Using various tools (usually student’s choice), dry erase, index card, or a sheet of paper, place a checkmark or sticker for every 15 minutes that the student stays on task. This can be cumbersome in a large class, so maybe start with the student being nearby so it can be done seamlessly while teaching.
  • If a certain amount of lines are checked, that student gets some reward (free time, a walk, etc.). This can be adapted on a period-by-period or daily basis. It should, after a reasonable amount of time, be weaned away from.
  • Another idea is a  rating scale with emojis, stars, or check marks. How did I do this period/today?

Finally, a checklist with either words or icons that the student can check off during the day. As with the first strategy, it should always have a specific time frame and be weaned away.

(Use check marks and emojis; need to earn a certain amount each day; eventually weaning)

Reading_____   ______   _____
Math______  ______  _______
English_______ _______ ______
Social Studies______ ______  ______

Or, the checklist can be modified for grade level:

Daily GoalEmoji or written comment
Keep in mind the below items
should be specifically defined
; ie- what does
“prepared for class” mean for that student?
Prepared for class
Stayed on task most of the time
Completed work
Homework handed in
Small to no behavioral disruptions

IMPULSE CONTROL for BEHAVIOR (Self Regulation)

These strategies are suitable for any student, even temporarily. However, they can be excellent tools for those with ADHD or, in some cases, Autism. In recent years mindfulness strategies and interventions have been quite effective.

While participating in mindfulness activities, students are trained to focus on calming images and words. Mindfulness activities can be simple and short, yoga-based, and meditative, to name a few interventions.

Studies show that regular or semi-regular meditative practices limit impulsivity and increase focus. Some examples are doing yoga stretches, concentrating on each of the senses, counting, and visualizing.

Here are some practical ideas for children of various ages to make modifications for age/grade level in their toolbox to draw from regularly.

This takes teaching, modeling, and practice to be beneficial strategies for the child.

  1. Deep breathing and visualizing something beautiful, unique, and happy place
  2. Art, drawing, especially therapeutic coloring
  3. Lie on the floor with a stuffed toy on your belly and deep breath, watching the toy go up and down without falling.
  4. Taking a walk
  5. Teaching students what it feels like to be grounded. Stand firmly and focus on each part of the body.
  6. Mantras and affirmations: for example, in my class, we say things like, “I can’t do this…yet,”; “I can’t read this…….yet”, and “I can’t do this math…….yet.”  Write mantras and affirmations together to use as a class, or let each child have their own. 
  7. Where it is possible, a calming down place where there is coloring, bubbles, and even peaceful music
  8. Journaling where appropriate
  9. Teaching meditation
  10. Naming things to be grateful for
  11. Setting a daily goal

These things are great individually or as a group, but what about in the moment? I have had kids that need impulse control at the moment. We have practiced some of these things above in calmer moments and then reminded them in those crisis moments.

I teach a self-contained high school special education class, a life skills classroom. We set up a spot in the classroom with calming activities. They are taught to count, and we make sure they know the different strategies we know are helpful for them individually.

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