Sunday, 7 April 2019

What is Sensory Processing?


In previous blog posts I have spoken about the sensory processing difficulties that both O and l have. But it recently occurred to me that to have an understanding of Sensory Processing Disorder, you first need to have an understanding of how we all process sensory input. And that is a topic that I haven't written a post about yet. So here goes!

Sensory processing occurs all the time in all of us, regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with sensory processing difficulties or not. We are all constantly taking in information from around us and from within our bodies.


We all have individual unique sensory processing styles. The way that we respond to different sensory inputs may change across the space of a day according to many different factors – stress, fatigue, illness, hunger and so on. And the way that one person responds is not necessarily how another person would respond.

There are four stages in sensory processing that occurs in every one of us, well most of us, every day. They are ....

1. Awareness – This is the awareness that something is touching you. The process begins when we become aware of a particular sensation. These sensations can come from the environment around us or from within our bodies.

2. Attention – Something is touching your arm. After we become aware of the sensation, our brain needs to decide whether we need to attend to the sensation or not. Our brain determines what sensory information needs our attention and what should be ignored.

3. Interpretation – You are being touched on the arm with a feather. Our brain interprets the sensation and determines its quality. The brain will compare the sensation with old ones that we have experienced before.

4. Reaction – You are being tickled on the arm with a feather which makes you giggle and squirm. The brain determines what reaction to make. The reaction may be emotional, physical or cognitive.

A good example that illustrates the three different reaction types is when a person spots a spider. An individuals cognitive response could be “spiders are dangerous,” an emotional response could be “I am afraid that the spider will bite me,” and the physical response could be “I will jump and run away from said spider.” Or they might respond with all three reactions!!

These four stages are happening every day and quite often we are not aware of it – the sensory processing is automatic.

In individuals who have sensory processing difficulties, their brains misinterpret sensory inputs and as such all four stages of sensory processing are affected. Sensory processing difficulties can also affect a few of an individuals senses or all of their senses.


So what are our senses? Take a moment to write down or say out loud all of our senses. Here's a few photos of my little superheroes enjoying some sensory input so that you can't cheat and just read on. But keep in mind that we have eight different senses!!








So, how did you go?

Hopefully you would have got the first five easily - taste, sight, hearing, touch and smell.

The last three are slightly trickier as they are our hidden senses! Our three hidden senses are those that we don’t consciously think about or are aware of on a daily basis.

The sixth sense is our vestibular sense - this sense provides our bodies with information as to where our head and body are in space. It helps us to keep our balance as we move about.


Our seventh sense is proprioception.
This is our body sense that tells us where our body is in relation to the rest of us. It also tells us how much force to exert when performing different activities like hugging someone, shaking hands, cracking an egg open and so on.

Then we have an eighth sense - our
interoception sense. This is a relatively unheard of internal part of the sensory system and consists of all of the internal sensations that we feel on a daily basis when we're hungry, thirsty, anxious, nervous or when we need to go to the bathroom. Any sensations that originate from within our bodies all stem from the sense of interoception. Receptors in our body organs and skin, are constantly sending information about the inside of our bodies to our brain.


So there you have it, sensory processing in a nutshell!!

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