The Seven Different Sensory Systems: Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Olfactory, Gustatory, Proprioception, and Vestibular System.
The sense of vision uses the eyes to collect information, in which the brain then interprets. The visual system works closely with the other senses to help us safely navigate and locate objects in our environments.
Visual activities and input help children develop visual perception skills, engage in visual tracking, and improve visual attention and ocular-motor control. Difficulties with visual processing may significantly impact a child’s academic achievement.
This sense helps a child detect the pitch, loudness, and tone of a noise or sound. This sense also allows us to take in the sounds we hear, process them, and create a correct response. It determines if a sound is dangerous and alerting or quiet and calm. This sense is important for listening skills, communication, and social skills.
Trouble with the auditory system can result in misunderstanding information or missing parts of sentences. It can also result in being overwhelmed or scared by certain sounds. When these sounds occur the child may cover their ears or duck their head. Other children may not hear the sounds around them which results in them always making sounds, humming, or singing.
This sense is detected through receptors in the skin. Information from this sense allows a child to feel when he/she is being touched and the quality of that touch. It also allows a child to determine what he/she is touching without the use of their vision.
Difficulty in tactile perception can have significant impact on a child’s emotional well-being. Intact tactile processing is important for develop body awareness, hand use skills, and motor planning.
This sense helps us to differentiate between thousands of different odors and determine if they are dangerous, foul, pleasurable, strong, or faint. Sensory receptors in our nose pick up information about the odors around us and send the information to our brain. This system also help create the flavors we taste in food. Our sense of smell is also linked to our memories and can affect our mood. The sense of smelling is important for a baby’s bonding with their caregiver. This sense is also protective against toxins and other odor omitting substances.
Difficulty in processing olfactory information can result in children who crave smells and may not understand safe vs dangerous smells. Other children may gag or vomit from smells that most people don’t notice or consider unpleasant. Children with an aversion to smells may have trouble at meal times.
It allows a child to discriminate between food flavors and tastes, such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory. Taste is received through taste buds and receptor cells on the tongue.
Difficulty in gustatory processing might cause your child to be a very picky eater or crave oral input, therefore demonstrating challenging behaviors during meal time. Gustatory activities and input help children to acquire eating and drinking habits as well as further categorize or identify foods based on their respective taste, texture, temperature or sense of smell.
Intact proprioception allows a child to determine his/her body’s position in space and regulate the direction and amount of force to use when moving. This sense is detected through sensory receptors in the joints and muscles.
The proprioceptive sense is stimulated when a child experiences pressure or moves his/ her limbs to push, pull, lift or hang. While engaging in activities that offer proprioceptive input, a child may also show improved attention and a more regulated arousal level. This is beneficial for learning, playing, socializing, and completing daily tasks.
This sense tells a child when he/she is moving, and the direction and speed of that movement. Vestibular activities and input help children develop their posture, balance, and coordination. This sense provides us with gravitational security, the feeling that we can maintain a position without falling. When we move our head, fluid in our inner ear moves and shifts, providing information about the position of our body and head in space.
Difficulty with vestibular processing can result in a child who needs to move constantly to feel satisfied or a child who is fearful of movement because it makes them feel insecure or unbalanced. It can also result in difficulty coordinating and planning motor tasks.