The Sensory System is how your brain and body interpret information from each other to produce an appropriate response. The Sensory System is for our survival. For example, if you hear a loud unexpected noise, your head will turn in the direction before you are even aware of what is happening. If you accidentally touch something that is hot, your hand will flinch and pull away so fast prior to realizing it to protect you from receiving a burn.
Typical sensory systems are there to help protect us. However, Sensory Processing Disorder is when the brain miscommunicates received input from the senses and causes a fight or flight response.
Children with Sensory Issues have aversions toward input that causes overstimulation or requires more stimulation to help the brain process information. Whenever I lecture I always say that in kindergarten we are taught 5 senses.
We see with our eyes
We hear with our ears
We touch with our skin
We smell with our nose
We taste with our tongue
However, there are 3 additional senses we are not taught about.
Our Vestibular Sense is the sense located in the inner ear. It helps with balance, coordination, muscle tone, attention, and spatial awareness.
Proprioception is a sense that receives input from our muscles and tendons about how much force we are required to utilize on a given object, posture, and motor control
Interoception is the sense of what is happening in your body. This relates to emotions as well as your ability to understand if you are feeling hot vs cold.
If a child suffers from overstimulation, they are unable to process information about the senses appropriately. For example, when they look around their classroom they are too overwhelmed and distracted by posters on the wall or hanging art projects. They find them distracting and are unable to pay attention to the teacher.
Children with sensory concerns also find it hard to eat in the lunchroom as the noise and smells are too overwhelming. Children who are picky eaters usually have sensitivity to textures and tastes and will limit their diet to easily dissolvable and familiar foods.
Children with balance and coordination concerns are labeled clumsy. Some children avoid activities that require the use of coordination such as organized sports or playground equipment. Helping your child with their Sensory Processing Skills makes a huge impact on their academic and social skills.
If you feel your child displays Sensory Processing Skill concerns, speak to your Pediatrician and take them for an Occupational Therapy evaluation.