What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing (or sensory integration) is the effective registration and accurate interpretation of sensory input in the environment (including one’s body). It is the way the brain receives, organizes, and responds to sensory input in order to behave in a meaningful & consistent manner.

The Human Senses

There are five senses that are more commonly known:

  • Sight
  • Taste
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Sound

In addition to these five senses, there are also three less familiar ones:

  • The vestibular system – our sense of movement and balance. It is responsible for providing our brain with information about our head position. It is also involved with motor functions that allow us to keep our balance, stabilize our head and body during movement, and maintain our posture.
  • Proprioception – your body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location. It’s present in every muscle movement you have, based on receptors located in your muscles, joints, and tendons.
  • Interoception – the perception of sensations inside the body, such as recognizing when we are hungry, thirsty, hot/cold, or need to use the bathroom.

Many different people experience sensory processing differences, but it is especially prevalent in those living with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – Recent estimates of prevalence of sensory symptoms of people with ASD range from 69% to 93% in children and adults (McCormick et al., 2016).
  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Recent studies show that the prevalence of SPD is 5% to 13% in children 4 to 6 years old (Ben-Sasson et al., 2009).
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – a neurodevelopmental condition that can cause unusual levels of hyperactivity, impulsive behaviors, and inattentiveness. Recent studies have shown that children with ADHD showed significant impairments in sensory processing and modulation compared to children without ADHD (Shimizu et al., 2014).

Why is it Important?

Individuals with sensory processing issues have trouble interpreting sensory information from their senses. What often happens, is their brain misreads or distorts information. This results in their reactions to sensations being too strong or not strong enough. Therefore, they may struggle with their:

  • Self-regulation
  • Gross motor skills
  • Fine motor skills
  • Attention
  • Functioning in daily tasks

If you feel you or your child are having difficulties with sensory processing, contact us today to set a consultation with our Occupational Therapist.

We look forward to connecting with you,

The SLN Team

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