In my June Newsletter, I wrote about how I would be “that awesome parent” this summer. It’s not happening. The kids are out of control and I find myself (once again) buried in books about sensory processing, trying to find the solution. I’m having trouble getting all their sensory needs met. Add my sensory needs to the mix and I get lost in a maze of words.
Sensory processing (or the sensory system) includes information from the environment and the body, the senses, how the brain interprets the senses, and the responce to the senses. The response is usually what we’re interested in and want to change. To do that, we have to go back to the information or experience that triggered the sense, and then how the brain noticed (or didn’t notice) the sensory input. Was it too much, too little? And what do we do to alter the whole experience to create a desirable response. Are you lost?
So I gathered some information that (I hope) will get us out of this predicament. The information below was gathered from the SPD Foundation (www.spdfoundation.net), Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing) , and the books, Living Sensationally, Understanding Your Senses, by Winnie Dunn and The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz.
“Sensory processing is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one's own body and the environment, thus making it possible to use the body effectively within the environment,” describes Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing) .
Sensory information from the environment helps us understand the world around us. We also have sensations inside ourselves that help us keep track of how are bodies are doing. To understand our bodies, we have touch sensors, body position sensors, movement sensors, and oral sensors. To understand the world around us, we have visual, auditory and smell sensors. See the list of senses below.
We experience life through our senses. Sensation is everywhere, but we all react differently to sensory experiences in our everyday life. We experience a sense of calm with some sensory experiences and get overwhelmed with other sensory experiences. The way we respond to a sensory experience is related to how quickly the brain notices the sensory input and what we do in response to make ourselves comfortable and satisfied. The responses we have adds to our understanding of human behaviour.
Sensory Processing Disorder
“Sensory processing disorder (SPD; also known as sensory integration dysfunction) is a condition that exists when multisensory integration is not adequately processed in order to provide appropriate responses to the demands of the environment….Sensory processing disorder is characterized by significant problems to organize sensation coming from the body and the environment and manifested by difficulties in the performance in one or more of the main areas of life: productivity, leisure and play or activities of daily living,” describes Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_processing_disorder) .
The SPD Foundation (www.spdfoundation.net) describes, “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as "sensory integration dysfunction") is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses.… A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.”
The Eight Senses
Interoception: The internal sense, responsible for knowing you are hungry, feel sick or have to use the restroom.
Proprioception: Body position sensor that tells us about our muscles, tendons, and joints. The position-sense keeps track of where our arms, legs, head, and body are even without seeing them. It helps understand what movement feels like inside your body. When people are less aware of their position-sense, it is difficult to make adjustments. This person would have trouble in an exercise program based on verbal instruction. Repositioning their body based on verbal instruction is difficult because they don’t understand what movement feels inside their body. They will need physical adjustments to help them position their body accordingly.
Vestibular: Your sense of balance, of where your body is positioned in space – like lying down, turning upside down, jumping and climbing high off the ground. These sensors tell us how fast and in which direction your head is moving. Some people love the feeling of movement; they are the roller coaster riders, others prefer their movement receptors quieter.
Taste (gustatory): Oral sensors create a log of things that go in our mouth. We feel textures, temperatures and we taste flavours.
Touch (tactile): Touch sensors keep the brain informed about our skin and the edge of our body. Your sense of feeling, all over your skin; responsible for how your clothes feel, knowing there is food on your face, and having your hair combed or cut.
Smell (olfactory): Your sense of what things smell like, from freshly baked cookies, to perfumes, soaps and skunks. We can map the world through our noses. Our brain categorizes smells and creates memory of them; which is why a smell can remind you of past events and places.
Sight (visual): How you see things, responsible for picking out one object in many, recognizing facial expressions and adjusting your eyes to lighting conditions. Our visual sensory receptors catalogue light and colour. Some of us are more sensitive to visual input and prefer dim lighting, and monochromatic decorating with less contrast and familiar patterns. Others are delighted with flooding light, lots of vibrant colours and lots of contrast and interesting features. Our visual sensors develop maps of our surroundings, we use these maps along with our body maps to navigate our surroundings.
Hearing (auditory): Auditory sensations map space and distance around us. Responsible for knowing who to listen to in a crowded room, organizing directions for a task, and taking in the sound of an alarm or siren.