Every day we are greeted with sensory input from the moment we wake until we close our eyes to sleep. Making sense of this input may be a challenging feat for us, but we usually adapt and are able to function throughout our day. For our children, understanding what we are experiencing --- feeling, touching, smelling, hearing, seeing --- may be overwhelming and prevent them from learning. As kids, we learn not only in the classroom but also on the playground, in our backyard, at the beach, sledding in the snow, or just swinging on a hammock, so it is vitally important to our development to make sense of and respond appropriately to input. Click here for more information on the following senses.
Sensory Processing ....
The tactile system is very important in development. As children explore their environments through touch, the ability to distinguish between different textures, temperatures, pain, shapes, location, and pressure are all things that affect our ability to attain and maintain a calm alert state which is most important for learning. Touch receptors in the skin help to discriminate different sensory inputs so that our brains may make sense of these inputs and we may learn things without seeing them such as the shape of a triangle, weight of an object, temperature of a surface or object. The accurate interpretation of what we are holding helps us determine how strong our grip needs to be to hold it such as a pencil, crayon, plate of food, or paintbrush.
Kinesthesis is the system for sensing the position and movement of individual body parts. Sensors in the tendons, joints, and muscles are continually providing our brain with information. A companion vestibular sense monitors the head’s (and thus the body’s) position and movement. The biological gyroscopes for this sense of equilibrium are in the semicircular canals and vestibular sacs in the inner ear. (Sensation and Perception, BCS Worth Publishers, Chapter 6).
Taste and smell are both important parts of our everyday lives. They both affect our ability to determine the taste of foods we eat. When these senses are impaired, eating may no longer be enjoyable and become a boring chore. Additionally, smell allows us to detect the flavor of food beyond the taste receptors for salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. Smell is also an important alerting sense. Smell may warn us of dangers such as fires, gas leaks, or spoiled food. It also provides us with the ability to interact with our environments perceiving the pleasant odor of a flower or sea spray from the ocean.
Vision and hearing development affect many aspects of sensorimotor development. Both of these senses affect how a child perceives and interacts with her/his environment and help in the development of motor and social skills. As children climb, run, hop, write, color, and play independently and with others, these two senses help identify reactions in others, location of friends, position of their bodies in space and in relation to the earth, and overall communication. If children have difficulty accurately perceiving their visual and auditory environments, they often have difficulty playing and doing activities that develop their muscles and minds.
Taste and Smell
Vision and Hearing