What is Sensory Processing?
This is our body’s ability to make sense out of the world through making use of our 8 (yes 8) senses. Let us have a look at these senses:
The first 5 senses are self-explanatory:
· Vision – This is what we see Bright light, colours, other people ect.
· Hearing (Auditory) – This is what we hear
· Touch (Tactile)- this is the wind against our skin, water in our face etc.
· Smell (Olfactory) – we smell the rain in the air, or the coffee in the morning
· Taste – We taste our food
The 3 invisible (unfamiliar) senses are:
· Movement (Vestibular sense) – these receptors are found in our middle ear and gives us feedback on our movement, how fast are we moving, and what is the angle of my head and body in relation to gravity.
· Internal picture of where my body is (Proprioceptive System)- these receptors are found in my joints and muscles and gives my brain an image of where my body is. For instance, we know where our feet are, without looking at our feet.
· Internal feeling (Interoception) – these receptors are situated inside our organs. It provides our brain with important messages such as feeling of hunger or thirst, or needing to use the bathroom.
Messages from our senses are constantly sent to our brain. Our brain needs to process, organize and sort important from unimportant information. An example of important information would be the need to use the bathroom, and example of unimportant information would be the feeling of clothes on your body. If the brain has difficulty with this process, a traffic jam can occur which often results in an emotional meltdown or other behaviours such as withdrawal and avoidance.
An example of this would be a chid who is very sensitive towards labels and certain textures of clothing. The brain registers the feeling of labels as important and threatening information and can thus result in a child pulling and tugging at the labels, or refusal to wear clothes with tags. In severe cases children can even have an emotional meltdown due to being overstimulated (interpreting, otherwise unimportant information, as critical/life threatening information). This was just an example of tactile sensitivity as a result of the brain over registering tactile information.
Each child has a unique sensory profile in how various senses are registered and interpreted by the brain. This is normal. One would however need to consult an occupational therapist should one or more of your child’s senses are disruptive to normal functioning and results in regular sensory meltdowns, especially if it affects day-to-day mundane tasks and scholastic performance.