The Impact of begin to ECSEL on Children's Self-Regulation, Executive Functions, and Learning


This new and pivotal research study from lead author Dr. Donna Housman, founder of Housman Institute, shows that a preventive intervention (begin to ECSEL) program, designed to promote young children’s emotional competence, increases their self-regulation, executive function, and ability to learn. Scroll down to learn more.

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Skills associated with the regulation of emotion, thinking, and behavior are deemed critical for many fundamental abilities, including memory, attention, and stress management (Osher, Cantor, Berg, Steyer, & Rose, 2020).

Developing social and emotional competencies during the critical period of neuroplasticity, within the first 3+ years of life, has a significant impact on the executive functioning and emotional regulatory skills essential for successful learning and social interaction.





Participants in this study included 94 children, ages 2-6 years old, who had been enrolled in the begin to ECSEL intervention program. These children were matched with a comparison group of children who had not experienced the begin to ECSEL program.

The study applied a series of tests from the Preschool Self-Regulation Assessment (PSRA) of children’s self-regulation and executive functioning skills, measuring both “hot” and “cool” executive challenge functions to assess impulse control and cognitive control (attention, thoughts, behaviors).



The preventive intervention program, begin to ECSEL (Emotional, Cognitive, and Social Early Learning), is the flagship program of Housman Institute and is based on the emotional foundations of learning and cognition. Begin to ECSEL uses everyday emotional situations as opportunities for young children to learn appropriate strategies for managing feelings, behavior, and thinking, thereby fostering their development of self-regulation and executive functioning skills.




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Results of the study established that children who experienced the begin to ECSEL intervention program notably outperformed the comparison group and as a result, demonstrated significantly better self-regulation and executive functioning skills. They significantly outperformed children who were, on average, a year older and who had not participated in the intervention program.

These results support the study’s hypothesis that preschool children, when introduced to programs promoting emotional competence and regulation from birth, are better able to develop self-regulation and executive functioning skills.

This study reinforces the critical need to foster the growth and development of these skills, which are foundational to children's ability to learn and succeed academically. The begin to ECSEL prevention and intervention program promotes the development of greater emotional maturity and equilibrium, which unleashes a more robust capacity to learn.

“As we know, the brain cannot access the ability to learn when emotions are not regulated. Children with poor emotion-management skills are prone to acting aggressively and impulsively rather than using problem-solving skills to analyze situations, anticipate consequences, and plan a response. By teaching the connection between feelings, thoughts, and behavior, children are provided the bridge for understanding appropriate ways of meeting one’s needs, constructively resolving conflicts, and solving problems.”
Dr. Donna Housman, Ed.D 2 Square

Dr. Donna Housman
Founder and CEO, Housman Institute