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How to Create the Best Sensory Circuits (with ideas!)

Sensory circuits are similar in function to a gym circuit, but instead of focusing on fitness, they focus on supporting arousal. They are a great activity to have on hand for children who struggle with sensory integration, such as children on the autistic spectrum or those with Sensory Processing Disorder. Being able to make and successfully implement sensory circuits is a real skill, so here are my top tips to ensure you create awesome circuits that children will enjoy and learn from.

sensory circuits for children with autism

What is a Sensory Circuit?

A sensory circuit is a form of sensory integration intervention. It involves a sequence of physical activities that are designed to alert, organise and calm children. The sensory circuit aims to facilitate sensory processing to help children regulate and organise their senses in order to achieve the ‘just right’ or optimum level of alertness required for effective learning. The circuit should be an active, physical and fun activity that children enjoy doing.

Sensory circuits should ideally be completed at school, first thing in the morning (and after lunch too, where possible), but can be done at home too. Sensory circuits are a great way to both energise and settle children so they can focus and engage better in the classroom. Many children can benefit from attending a sensory circuit, even for a short period of time. The activities can also be utilised at different times of the day as part of a sensory diet to help the child regulate.

Alerting Activities

The aim of this section is to provide vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation within a controlled setting. It can also help children who may struggle with sitting still or who like to fidget burn off some excess energy and release that tension that they often feel when they can't move for long periods of time. Alerting activities prepare the brain for learning and the demands of the school environment. Some examples of great alerting activities include;

sensory circuits for children with autism

Organising Activities

This section includes activities that require motor sensory processing, balance and timing. These activities help improve focus and attention. The child needs to organise their body, plan their approach and do more than one thing at a time in sequential order. Some great organising activities could include;

  • Balancing (walking down the middle of an upside down gym bench)

  • Tossing bean bags into a bin or hoop

  • Wobble boards

  • Blowing bubbles at a target

Calming Activities

The calming activities are very important as they provide input to ensure that children leave the circuit and return to their classrooms calm, centred and ready for the day ahead.

  • Deep pressure (weighted blankets , massage, squeezes)

  • Heavy muscle work, such as crawling through a tunnel

  • Rolling yoga ball or foam roller across legs or back

For most effective outcomes, sensory circuits should be completed on a regular basis. Ideally, the circuit will take no more than 15-20 minutes. The children should spend up to 5 minutes in each section performing the different activities.

It is important to consider that each child’s needs and tolerance levels are different. Some children may need more time in the alerting or calming sections to enable them to be more organised and prepared for the day’s learning. Children should be encouraged but not forced to participate in the circuit and must be supervised at all times.

sensory circuits for children with autism

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