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Sensory Processing: 7 Facts Everyone Should Know

2015-01-20 by Dayna Abraham

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This sensory processing post is brought to us by our guest blogger Dayna at Lemon Lime Adventures.

Have you heard the term “sensory processing” yet had no clue what it meant? Or maybe you have heard of it but aren’t quite clear what it means or how it relates to your child. In fact, that term might even you think there is a problem or disorder of some sorts? Understanding sensory processing is extremely important for a parents, caregivers, and teachers alike, which is why I am excited to begin this six month series unraveling Sensory Processing and how it relates to all children.

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Each month, I will be sharing a brief overview of each sensory system and how it relates to the healthy development of all children. As parents, educators, and caregivers, it is important to understand the sensory systems so that we can better understand our children and give them the support they need. Unfortunately, "sensory processing" is often misunderstood and thought to only refer to a problem.

Hopefully, through this series you will gain insights into this confusing yet extremely important part of child development, find some fun activities to try with your child, and feel confident that you are giving your child what they need to succeed.

7 Facts About Sensory Processing Everyone Should Know

1. There Are More than 5 Sensory Systems

The truth is, there are actually many sensory systems that our bodies use every single day. There are the 5 that most us know and recognize which are sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. However, did you know that some scientists state there are up to 21 senses in the human body? Wow, right? Of those, there are two senses that are so incredibly important and vital to the growth and development of young children. These are the proprioceptive and vestibular systems.

2. Sensory Processing Is Not a Disorder

This can be incredibly misleading. Most parents (and educators) have only heard of Sensory Processing as it relates to a child struggling. Therefore, the connection is almost always made that the term "sensory processing" refers to a problem or a disorder. In fact, sensory processing refers to the way the brain receives and organizes (processes) the input in our surroundings. Think about the room you are in right now. There are noises, smells, and even movements as you try to focus on this article. Your brain is processing all of that information and trying to decode what is important and safe against what should be ignored.

3. Everyone Has Sensory Needs and Preferences

Now that you know there are more sensory systems, it might not be as much of a surprise to know that most of the ways we approach activities and how we react to our environment is related to these systems. For example, there might be a certain shirt that you absolutely love, or a perfume that you can't live without. On the contrary, there can be foods and flavors we detest, and sounds that drive us bonkers. All of these preferences are related to our sensory systems.

4. Sensory Processing Effects How We Interact with Our Environment

From foods we like to our choice to be around other people, our sensory systems are responsible for our likes and dislikes. Knowing these preferences, what they look like, and how you can support them can be the defining difference in helping a child you know be successful. For example, if you know that your child seeks proprioceptive input, you can provide them with fun and engaging play before any seated, quiet event to help them be successful or if you know your child dislikes mushy foods, you can prepare foods with more crunch. These preferences can effect the choice in toys and even the choice in activities children engage in.

5. Supporting a Healthy Sensory System Can Be Done Through Everyday Activities

Playing in the leaves, jumping in the pool, and even helping in the garden can be an easy way to support healthy sensory development. Over the course of this series, we will dig into some activities that are simple and fun for you and your children that support each sensory system.

6. Sensory Play Involves the Whole Body

Remember those extra sensory systems I told you about? Proprioception and Vestibular? Until now, you might have thought of sensory play as being only for your hands such as play dough, finger painting and rice bins. However, sensory play is so much more. Helping children organize and regulate their sensory systems involves the whole body, from their heads to their toes. Moving, shaking, jumping and spinning are just a few activities that help children develop healthy sensory integration.

7. Not All Children Are Able to Integrate Their Sensory Systems Naturally

Here's the kicker. Unfortunately, using our senses does not come naturally to all of us. Some children can be over or under responsive to different input in their environment causing them to have a very hard time regulating emotions and communicating their needs. Often times, just like the adults that care for them, the children are unaware of why they are having so much trouble. These children may just have severe sensory preferences or there could be a larger problem that requires professional help. If you have concerns about a child you know, click here to read more.

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If all of this sounds confusing, don't worry. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a deeper look at each of the sensory systems and explore ways to support your child so that they can be successful every day! Be sure to pin this post, so you can come back and check the rest of the series to learn more!

Toys that Encourage Healthy Sensory Processing Development

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Dayna Abraham

Dayna is a National Board Certified teacher, with over 12 years of experience in early childhood education, who now homeschools her 3 children, one of which struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder. She is the author at Lemon Lime Adventures and owner of Project Sensory, where she is dedicated to sharing real life stories with parents and educators about the pretty and the not so pretty days involved in raising children. You can connect with Dayna over on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and G+!

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