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Creating a Sensory Path for Your School by Meredith Mitchell

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What is a Sensory Path?     

A sensory path is a great way for students to develop motor skills like balance, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness.  The path requires students to hop, skip, step, jump, touch, and feel along the way. It’s bright and colorful and lots of fun!   

That said it more importantly triggers language development, problem solving skills and social interaction.  Sensory paths aid in calming an anxious or frustrated student. They build sensory nerve connections within a child’s brain neural pathways which in turn supports students in completing complex, multistage tasks. 

Teachers often use sensory paths as their kids walk through a hallway between activities. Sending them out to the hall to work off some of those emotions can help them re-focus when they return to their desk. It helps if you practice and train your students on what the expectations are while they are on the path. 

An easy way to create your own Sensory Path at your school. 

Start with measuring your space. Make a plan of how you want your sensory path to look. Sometimes selecting a theme can help.  If you do not have an idea then look up examples of other sensory paths online. Ask your students what their favorite movements are. Incorporate these into your design. 

Next, order materials and design the sensory path utilizing brightly colored decals, stickers, numbers, words, shapes, sensory mats, and tiles. Don’t have those? Colored duct tape can also be used.  All of these were applied to the floor and surrounding walls extending down an entire hallway.  Waxing over the decals will help them stay down and provide a seal. 

Last, good sensory paths have a wide variety of physical elements for children to try. The path should include activities where children are crossing the midline. Words can be used to tell them when to jump, stretch, lean, slide, spin, stomp, touch or high five the items on the path. Hand prints, foot prints, and arrows are good choices to use when developing the path. 

How to get funding for a Sensory path

I was fortunate to write a grant for a sensory path and get it fully funded for my school. Grants are a great way to get free funding for projects that are needed for school improvement. Ask a local business for donations or to partner with you on creating this sensory path for your school. Fundraising for your project can also be done through local resources. Reaching out to the school Parent Teacher Association can also be a way to get your path funded.

If you can not get the funding to buy all the fancy stickers and decals that's ok! Use what you have. Write it out on butcher paper and tape it to the floor or walls. This method is not permanent but can be a fun activity for a day or two.

Create a path outside using chalk for the children to use while taking a walk on the sidewalk. Have the children help you draw the lines to tip toe on or spaces to jump and hop over. Do not forget to add letters and numbers for some academic review. Creating a sensory path should be an enjoyable experience.

The Sensory path is for everyone!

The sensory path is affording most all of our students (and teachers) a well-deserved “brain break” throughout the school day; however, it has made a tremendous difference with our special needs students. When a child with a sensory processing disorder, autism, or an emotional disability is in a general education classroom, their brain is trying to process several different things at once. This can be overwhelming and overstimulating. Students need to be able to stop for a bit, move, and refocus so they can learn. Engaging in sensory path activities have proven to increase cognition and retention of new information. Sensory paths or sensory activities can be added to a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It is so rewarding to watch kids having fun while knowing that so many developmental and cognitive skills are being strengthened.


About the Author

Meredith Mitchell is a Special Education teacher and Case Manager in an Elementary School. She was selected Alabama's Teacher of the Year in 2020-2021 for District lll. Meredith has her own Special Education consulting business and enjoys presenting at conferences all over the southeast. She is a mother of 3 children and enjoys spending time with her family.


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If you liked this and want IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast: 

#114 - Self Regulation and Speech Therapy with Jessie Ginsburg

#106 - Exploring Dyslexia with Meredith Mitchell


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