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The 7 Sensory Systems

What do you mean there are 7 senses?? I only know about 5!

You’re right, there are 5 primary senses and 2 additional ones which are little bit more complicated but are also extremely important in helping our bodies feel good and organized.

Let’s start with the basics:

Sight: Our sight is so important in helping us navigate the world. We use our sight to scan the environment and make sure it’s safe, it helps us complete our homework, and occasionally makes us distracted by a bird flying by. Additionally, our sight is a primary part of our visual perceptual skills which help us find objects in a messy drawer, complete jigsaw puzzles and move around our house and the playground without safely.

Hearing: We use our hearing to make sure it’s safe to cross the road, to listen to parents and teachers give directions, and enjoy our favorite music. On a more complex level, our auditory processing is where we take in the information we heard and figure out what to do with that information.

Smell: Our sense of smell lets us know how yummy our soup is going to taste, whether or not a peach is ripe and what kind of environment we are in (i.e. is it raining? Is there an ocean nearby? Is something burning?).

Taste: Taste is such an important part of babies making sense of their environment. As they grow and learn to know what is edible and what is not. Taste also impacts our food choices, as some people may like salty foods better while others may like sweet foods better. One great way to try foods you might not like is to add strong flavors and spices to make the experience more enjoyable.

Touch: Our sense of touch is so critical. It is one the first ways babies first start exploring their world. It is also one of the first ways we learn how to be safe (i.e. watching out for legos after stepping on one or not touching the stove when it is hot). Now we have talked about touch in a previous blog post. But in general, there are 3 delivery methods for touch. The first is yourself, you can rub your arms if your cold, or scratch an itch. The second is from an object, a loose shirt brushing up against your tummy, or the feeling of grass underneath your feet. The last is from another person, receiving a hug from a parent or getting tickled by a sibling. If you think about it, we are always experiencing some form of touch.

Now for the two new ones!

Proprioception: Think of proprioception as all the input you get from your muscles and joints. For example, when you are pulling your favorite heavy comforter up to your ears on a cold winter night. Your muscles are working really hard. A great one for kids (and adults) is playing tug of war. Anyway, you push or pull on an object is a form of proprioceptive input.

Vestibular: Think of this as the position of your head in space. It can move front to back, like on a swing. It can move from side to side like swaying to your favorite slow song. It can go in circles, like log rolling down the hill or playing chase around the kitchen island. It can also go upside down, like forward rolls, or going into downward dog. All of these changes to our head position sends information to our brain about where our head and body are in space.

This is just a general overview of the 7 sensory systems, and there is always more to learn. If you have any questions about any of the systems, please don’t hesitate to talk your OT!

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