Understanding Sensory Processing

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Definition: Sensory processing refers to how the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.

Types of Sensory Processing: There are three main types: sensory modulation disorder (difficulty regulating responses to sensory input), sensory-based motor disorder (difficulty with coordination and motor skills), and sensory discrimination disorder (difficulty interpreting and distinguishing sensory information).

Sensory Input Categories: Sensory input can be categorized into proprioceptive (body awareness), vestibular (balance and movement), tactile (touch), visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste).

Signs of Sensory Processing Issues:


Hyperactivity or Hypoactivity: Overreacting or underreacting to sensory stimuli.

Sensory Seeking or Avoidance: Seeking out or avoiding certain sensory experiences.

Difficulty with Transitions: Struggling with changes in routine or environment.

Motor Coordination Issues: Poor fine or gross motor skills.

Social and Emotional Challenges: Difficulty with social interactions or emotional regulation.

Parent Tips:


Observe and Understand: Pay attention to your child’s reactions to different sensory stimuli to better understand their sensory preferences and triggers.

Provide Sensory Opportunities: Offer a variety of sensory experiences to help your child regulate their sensory input.

Create a Sensory-Friendly Environment: Make adjustments at home to accommodate your child’s sensory needs, such as using noise-canceling headphones or providing sensory toys.

Communicate with Teachers: Keep open lines of communication with your child’s teachers to ensure consistency between home and school environments.

Teacher Tips:


Educate Yourself: Learn about sensory processing and how it can affect learning and behavior in the classroom.

Provide Sensory Breaks: Incorporate sensory breaks throughout the day to allow students to regulate their sensory input.

Offer Choice: Provide students with options for seating, materials, and activities to accommodate their sensory preferences.

Create a Calming Environment: Design your classroom to minimize sensory distractions and provide quiet spaces for students who need them.

Collaborate with Parents: Work closely with parents to develop strategies that support their child’s sensory needs both in the classroom and at home.

By understanding and accommodating sensory processing differences, parents and teachers can create environments that support children in their learning and development. Link in with an OT/ trained professional if you are looking for further support in this area.