Understanding Your Child's Sensory System
We all experience the world through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. We also use two more senses that aren’t talked about as often: proprioception (awareness of your body in space) and the vestibular sense (the inner ear processes information about movement, gravity, and balance). Each sense is not experienced equally. For example, if your child seeks sensory input in one category that does not necessarily mean they will seek input in other categories the same way. Some people react when just a little stimulus is given and others need a lot of stimuli to react.
Dr. Winnie Dunn is an occupational therapist who has researched how children react to sensory stimulation. Dr. Dunn has discovered that children have different thresholds to sensory stimulation. The word threshold refers to the point at which a child will respond to sensory information (Dunn, 1999). Dr. Dunn says that children with difficulty processing sensory information from the environment might have one of the four types of responses described in the chart above.
Once you have identified how your child perceives sensory input you can adjust sensory experiences to help your child learn to self regulate. This support may take many forms including decreased lighting, soothing music, fast swinging, necklaces for chewing, wheelbarrow walking, or making homemade slime. If you have any specific questions you can contact one of TheraPLACE’s credentialed Occupational Therapists. Occupational therapists are trained in understanding the sensory system and partnering with parents to come up with a “sensory diet” individual to each child.
*Source of chart above: http://www.tinkthings.com/#products