Circle Time For Preschool Special Education

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Establishing structured and predictable routines is paramount, particularly when it comes to engaging autistic learners during morning meetings or circle time. These routines not only provide comfort and security but also enhance understanding and reduce anxiety. We’ll explore three effective strategies to establish predictable routines for circle time, specifically tailored for learners who are new to small group gatherings.

Why Predictable Routines are Essential:

  1. Comfort and Security: Predictable routines offer a sense of comfort and security to autistic children, allowing them to feel safe and supported in their environment.
  2. Reduced Anxiety: By knowing what to expect, children experience less anxiety, enabling them to participate more fully in group activities.
  3. Increased Understanding: Predictable routines help children understand what is expected of them during circle time, facilitating better engagement and participation.
  4. Familiarity and Confidence: Familiar routines increase confidence and engagement, as children feel more comfortable and empowered in their surroundings.
  5. Improved Attention and Focus: Structured routines enhance attention and focus, enabling children to better absorb and retain information.
  6. Reduced Challenging Behaviors: Predictable routines minimize disruptive behaviors, creating a conducive learning environment for all students.
  7. Smooth Transitions: Establishing routines helps smooth transitions between activities, reducing stress and frustration for both students and educators.

To read more about autism and routines check out this blog on Predictable Routines.

3 tips for circle time routines

1. Get Organized:

  • Preparation is key to success. Ensure all visuals and support materials are readily available before circle time begins.
  • Plan for short group sessions initially, gradually increasing the duration as students become more accustomed to the routine.
  • Introduce activities gradually, starting with familiar songs or interactive activities to capture students’ attention and interest.
  • Differentiate the length of group time for individual students based on their tolerance levels, ensuring everyone can participate comfortably.

2. Use Visual Supports:

  • Utilize visual schedules to outline the sequence of activities during circle time, helping students understand what to expect and reducing anxiety.
  • Incorporate visuals such as mini-schedules, “all done” buckets, and “sit down” cues to facilitate communication and reinforce expectations. See what this looks like in the replay of of my Circle Time training on YouTube.
  • Model the use of visuals consistently and encourage team members to maintain consistency in their use, promoting a predictable routine for all students. You can find more information and a visual for the all done bucket in my free Visual Supports Starter set. To grab your copy, go to
  • Another visual I like to model right away is a big size picture of “sit down”.  Model it, show it, and eventually you may simply be able to set it in front of a student or into their hands and they will look and sit back down. Keep all of these visuals in an easy to access location right at the circle time area.
  • Here are 5 must have visual sequences to improve routines at school and home.

3. Sing a Goodbye or All Done Song:

  • Use songs to signal the end of circle time and transition to the next activity.
  • Select a consistent goodbye song to establish a routine and provide closure to the group session. Whether it is a song you sing or one on YouTube, this is a great way to signal the transition away from group time and to the next activity.
  • Encourage students to check their visual schedules and prepare for the next activity, promoting independence and self-regulation. We bring the schedule with one picture on it to some students and other students walk over to their visual schedule.

Power of Circle Time Routines

The power of predictable routines cannot be overstated. These routines provide stability, reduce anxiety, and create an environment conducive to learning and development. By understanding the unique needs of autistic children and creating predictable routines you can help your students actively engage in circle time. Best of luck implementing morning meeting with your students and be sure to watch the replay of the FB Live mini-training on this topic!

quote: we cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails

Want to listen to the podcast on this topic? Check it out here.

Also, check out episode 55: 3 Things You Need in Place Before Teaching an Autistic Child

And episode 55: Using Predictable Routines to Help Your Classroom Run More Smoothly

If you use visual supports in your classroom or home, you are going to want to sign up for this free Visual Supports Starter Set ASAP! Click here to have one sent to your inbox. Also, be sure to read more about visual supports and how they can help autistic children here.

Visual supports starter set

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