Sensory Circuits are run in conjunction with occupational therapists at Oaklands and are different to our daily Physical Development Circuits.
Sensory Integration is the process by which the brain receives, organises and processes all the information received from the senses. The senses include touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste, body position and movement (proprioception) and balance/position against gravity (vestibular). The information received from these senses help us to make sense of the world. Effective sensory integration and processing enables us to respond appropriately to different stimuli in our environment and informs our everyday functioning.
An inability to effectively process, organise and correctly interpret sensory information is known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), formally known as sensory integration dysfunction. Children with SPD may find functional daily activities challenging. The severity of these difficulties can vary greatly. However, 1 in 6 children experience significant disruption to their daily lives as a result of SPD.
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 the child. 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.
Sensory circuits are designed to start with alerting activities, move to an organising phase and then finally to a calming phase. Doing the activities in the recommended order is vital. The right order results in a well-regulated, happy child. The wrong order may well result in a dysregulated, upset or irritable child and have the opposite effect.
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.
The aim of this section is to provide vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation within a controlled setting. This prepares the brain for learning and the demands of the school environment.
Example activities: Jumping/bouncing on a trampoline, skipping, running, rolling and bouncing on a yoga ball, animal walks, step ups, star jumps etc.
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.
Example activities: Balancing, climbing, log rolls, throwing to a target, wobble boards, weaving in and out of cones, throwing and catching, jumping through hoops etc.
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.
Example activities: Proprioceptive and deep pressure e.g. yoga ball squashes, lying under a weighted blanket, massage arms/legs, linear swinging or rocking, heavy muscle work e.g. crawling through a tunnel, press ups etc.
Books/Videos to look at:
Sensory Circuits: A Sensory Motor Skills Programme for Children – Jane Horwood (2009)