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The “Hidden” Senses

Most children easily process sensory input from the world around them to produce typical behavioral responses. When this information is not processed or ‘integrated’ correctly a child’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities may be affected along with the ability to learn and behave appropriately.

In addition to the five main senses (taste, touch, vision, smell, and hearing) the body has additional “hidden” senses. We’ll review two of them here:

Vestibular: Vestibular, the sense of balance and motion located in the middle ear, responds to information concerning the relationship of our bodies to gravity, speed, direction of movement, the overall sense of our body in relation to space. Vestibular input can be calming (slow swinging), organizing, alerting (fast swinging, roller coaster), or disorganizing depending on the type of movement and the sensitivity of the individual.

Persons who have difficulties with integrating vestibular input may avoid movement or may crave these sensations by engaging in these activities at every opportunity, impacting the ability to sit, attend, and learn.

Proprioception: Sense of the movements and position of the body independent of vision. These receptors that tell our brain our position in space. The proprioception system helps us understand how much force we are using in order to successfully complete a task. Examples include the amount of pencil pressure used when writing to avoid breaking the tip or writing too lightly, poking food with a fork, and cutting with a knife. Proprioceptive input tends to have a calming and organizing effect on the body and helps when we are feeling overstimulated or overwhelmed.

Persons who have difficulty integrating proprioceptive input may seek out heavy items to cuddle up under, may constantly be moving to seek input, may seem clumsy and demonstrate poor grading of force (such as hugging too hard, lean for support or close doors too hard.

Providence Pediatric Medical Daycare is a loving, caring environment for children with special medical needs. PPMD has daycare facilities located throughout Southern New Jersey, in Camden, West Berlin, and Atlantic City.

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