What is Sensory Processing?

7-senses“We Live on the Leash of Our Senses”

– D. Ackerman, “A Natural History of the Senses”

 

  • Sensory processing is the earliest form of processing that takes place in the brain.
  • Processing of sensory information is a delicate neurological interaction between brain and body, known as sensory integration or sensory processing. Simply said, it is making sense of the world.
  • Sensory processing was first described in 1968 by occupational therapist and neuroscientist, Jean Ayres, Ph.D.
  • Sensations are perceived, organized and interpreted by the nervous system, so that our body and mind can adapt to the world from minute to minute.
  • We experience the world through 7 senses, 5 that we are consciously aware of (looking, listening, tasting, smelling and touching) and 2 that we are unconsciously aware of (balance/movement and body position).
  • The 3 senses most essential to our daily functioning are the silent interactions, the ones we take most for granted: the tactile (touch) system, the vestibular (balance/movement) system, and the proprioceptive (body position) system.
  • Each of us processes sensory information differently, somewhere on a continuum of responsivity, and it is our own unique and individual sensory profile that influences how we respond to everyday sensations, impacting our temperament, our behavior, our social interactions, emotional development, motor skills, learning abilities, leisure activities, and even our career preferences.
  • How we respond to sensations (sensory modulation), how we perceive/discriminate sensations (sensory discrimination), and how we sequence actions/interactions (motor-planning) are the processes that make sensory integration possible, and enable us to glide through the day consumed by our thoughts rather than consumed by our senses.

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