Sensory Processing

What’s on this page?

Sensory systems help us make sense of the world

Being over or under sensitive can make behaviour different or challenging

Ways we help are below

8 Sensory Systems

We use 8 different sensory systems in our bodies all the time without thinking about it, to make sense of things around us … to recognise and interpret smells, textures, tastes, our position, how much we need to squeeze our hands and fingers together to pick up things that are solid or fragile. To respond appropriately to stimuli around us, we need our sensory systems, with their network of receptors, to give messages to our brain to which it can respond. Sometimes these sensory systems and pathways don’t work as expected. They may be over-sensitive (hyper-sensitive) or under-sensitive (hypo-sensitive), or they may confuse things. When this happens we can find things a little different and sometimes behave in unexpected ways. 

When children have difficulties processing different sensory information, their behaviour may seem unusual and confusing to others. However it is because they are interpreting things differently. Identifying the nature of their difficulties and triggers for certain behaviours is key to understanding their difficulties and finding a way to help them.

Signs and Support for difficulties with each of the 8 Sensory Systems

Sometimes children can find different situations and environments over stimulating, and as a result highly distracting. Sometimes using sensory activities and providing them with different sensory stimulation via a sensory diet, can help to calm them and manage their bodies responses, and in doing so help them focus more easily.

Sensory Circuits

Sensory circuits are a set of physical activities set up in a circuit for children to complete for 10-15 minutes each day. The activities are designed to help the brain’s processing speed. They are grouped as either: alerting, calming or organising. The activities within the circuit can be specifically chosen for your child and to help them in a particular way, for example more calming activities may be needed to encourage an active child to settle and begin learning. Alerting activities may help another child who is less active and more passive.

An Introduction to Sensory Circuits video

Sensory Circuit Activity Ideas

Alerting, Calming and Organising activities

Sensory breaks

Sometimes a short activity break can help children to concentrate and focus on learning and other tasks. Adding in a break of 10-15 minutes of physical activity or another sensory activity (listening to music, carrying something heavy, having a hand massage) helps to alert or calm children who may be feeling tired or anxious about an activity and therefore starting to lose concentration. Any of the activities included on this page could help your child – it’s a case of finding something that they enjoy and works for them.

Activity cards

Activity ‘fruit machine’ selector

Sensory Activities at Home video

Sensory Spectacle Website link  – click here

Gentle massage techniques for your child – video

Hand massage