Sensory Systems - what are they and how do they affect children's behaviour?


The Sensory Systems


The 7 Sensory Systems include:

• Vestibular – movement and balance sense
• Tactile – Sense of touch
• Proprioception – Sense of where the body is when not looking
• Vision – What we see
• Olfactory – What we smell
• Gustatory – What we taste
• Auditory – What we hear

Part One - Vestibular System

Vestibular – movement and balance sense

Children who seek vestibular (movement-based) input cannot get enough spinning, swinging, sliding, and rolling. Vestibular input is the sense of movement that is centred in the inner ear. Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input.

It is normal for children to seek out vestibular experiences as part of their natural development. Just because a child wants to swing a lot doesn’t mean he or she has sensory processing disorder! However, there are some children who truly require INTENSE amounts of vestibular input, to the point that they might compromise their own safety in order to get it.

Sensory input can help stimulate children to feel less sluggish. It can also soothe an “overloaded system” and help children feel more organised in their own bodies and in space. That’s where these great products come into play. 

5 items you will love in your classroom or home...


1. Mini trampoline with a handle

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3. Balance board

A challenge for the vestibular system, which is closely tied to our sense of balance. (This balance board is a bargain from Kmart).

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4. Scooter board

You can get inspired for how to use your scooter board at The Inspired Treehouse.

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5. Swing set

The back-and-forth nature of this type of swing can calm those who are vestibular seekers. Some children need 5 minutes. Others need 20 minutes or more.

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Want to know more?

There's a great article on the Grow On Children's Occupational Therapy website, which explains in detail the Vestibular System in their Sensory series. They describe what behaviours demonstrate children who are under-registering vestibular input, or are overly sensitive to vestibular input. The article even goes into what it looks like if a child falls into both categories.