Independent Specialist Speech & Language Therapist in Scotland
I have learned so much about sensory processing – and the impact of it on everyday life – from working alongside Occupational Therapists (sensory processing specialists). Sensory differences are officially recognised as a key aspect of Autism Spectrum Disorders and when you scratch beneath the surface of everyday behaviours there can sometimes be a sensory reason underlying. This article from Beth Arky of Child Mind gives a good overview.
“The term ‘Sensory Processing’ refers to our ability to take in information through our senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, sight, hearing, balance) organize and interpret that information and make a meaningful response.The seven senses are fundamental to a child’s ability to learn & function in any environment.” www.spdaustralia.com.au/
When I start working with new clients I will often look more into sensory processing as understanding that will help me understand actions, give me an idea of coping mechanisms and crucially help me to suggest supportive strategies for the individual. This is a useful tool from Lindsay Biel that helps to focus your thinking on the different senses and can help me identify patterns and know where to look more closely.
Crucially the senses we look are not just the standard 5 (Touch, Taste, Sight, Hearing, Smell). There are an amazing 7 senses!! Note – It’s also quite a subtle thing – not just about presence of absence of the sense but can be about being over responsive, under-responsive or difficulty modulating it (so the sensory picture changes).
Sense #6 – Proprioception is based in proprioceptors (nerve receptors) based in the muscles and junctions with tendons and joints. It controls and keeps track of. the different parts of the body. ((Examples – Jumpers, crashers, stompers, biters, bear hugger, using too much force or too little force)).
Sense #7 – Vestibular (based in your inner ear involving the body’s sense of movement and gravity or the relationship between one’s own body and the earth, and where is the body in relationship to other objects such as a ball, the sidewalk, or stairs. This system also tells the body whether or not it is moving, how fast it is moving and in what direction it is moving). ((Examples – avoiding or seeking: spinning, speed, running, hopping, jumping)).
I am certainly not claiming to be an expert in this (Occupational Therapists are the folk for that) but an understanding can be fascinating and illuminating for supporting our young people – and quite possibly understanding ourselves as well. Look into a bit more ans see whether it sheds any light on things you see your child doing – it may also point you in the direction of sensory strategies that will sooth/ calm/ energise/ “reboot” the sensory system when needed). Most importantly THINK 7!!!