What Parents Should Know About Sensory Processing

Everything is new for children, and every new encounter is full of new sensations. In this post, we are going to take a look at the important role our senses and sensory input play in childhood development. 

By Momentous Institute | Jun 30, 2021
Parents Should Know Sensory Processing

As adults, watching children discover the world around them is both entertaining and rewarding. Everything is new to them, and every new encounter is full of new sensations. In this post, we are going to take a look at the important role our senses and sensory input play in childhood development.

Most of us are familiar with the five senses, however, we actually have seven different sensory systems. There are the five most of us know: tactile (touch), auditory (sound), visual (sight), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) plus proprioception (muscle-joint awareness) and vestibular (orientation in space), These systems help us process, understand and interact with our environment.

Everyone uses sensory processing all the time. However, like most things, children have to learn their senses. While our senses are part of who we are from birth, we are not born with the ability to organize sensations. As children explore using their senses, they are able to begin to organize sensations and respond to each sensation accordingly. This process allows children to develop the ability to interact appropriately with their environment.

So, why should we care?

Sensory processing is an important part of brain development. As the brain processes senses, it filters through those that are important and those that are not. Think about all the sounds we hear in a day. Chances are we hear many more sounds than we actual notice. This is because our brain filters through which sounds are important and which ones are not. Unless it is the dead of night and everything is quiet, you probably don’t notice the steady hum of electricity in the air. However, if an alarm goes off, your brain kicks into gear because it knows, from experience, that an alarm demands our attention.

For a child who has never heard an alarm, that sensory process has not been organized and stored in their brain for future use. This is why sensory processing is such an important part of bran development. The more experiences children have, the more their brain can process and organize sensations that can be called upon in future situations.

When a child’s brain is effectively organizing incoming sensory input, the child can successfully overcome challenges or demands in their environment. The good news is that sensory processing is always happening. Children are constantly taking in new senses and their brains are organizing those senses. Parents don’t have to make a huge effort to ensure that their child is experiencing sensory processing. However, understanding that sensory processing is part of natural brain development can help parents understand how their child is taking in the world.

Have you ever noticed that young children seem to need to touch everything or that they are drawn to objects that make sound when you push a button? This is because of sensory processing. For a child learning the world for the first time, it isn’t enough to just see a new object and be told what it is. They need to smell it, touch it, listen to it. They need to take in the object using multiple senses. This can, at times, be frustrating for adults, because we have been there done that. But when we know that these actions are part of normal development, we can remind ourselves that the child is simply learning about the world around them.

When thinking about sensory processing it is important to remember to slow down and let children have new experiences. The best thing a parent can do for their child is acknowledge that sensory processing is an important part of brain development and then take the time, when able, to slow down and let their child experience the world around them.