To understand sensory processing we need to look at all our sensory systems and what they do.
There are the 5 we know about,
- Sight (vision)
- Hearing (auditory system)
- Touch (tactile system)
- Taste (gustatory system)
- Smell (olfactory system)
The other 3 you may have heard of are:
- Proprioception (body awareness and position in the space around us)
- Vestibular (awareness of our movement, balance, and coordination)
- Interoception (our internal sensory system that tells us what is happening inside our body (eg hunger, needing the toilet, fatigue, emotions, etc)
Every day we are filtering lots of sensations and we need these to help us with all the things we do on a daily basis. Our sensory systems help us get dressed, what foods to eat, how we learn and socialise.
Sensory Integration helps us process and organise the sensory information we're receiving through our bodies and the environment.
For some autistic people some or all of these sensory sensations might become too much. They may be focused on the dripping of the tap over the noise from the TV, the fire alarm causes them physical painful, the banging of a door is as loud as a firework, the smell in the room is so over-powering it physically makes them sick.
Try exploring this with your child/young person at home as well as for school using the resource below
Sometimes they don't know what it is that's causing distress, they just know they need to get away.
Think of it like filling a glass with water...at first it may just be dripping information, and that's ok because the water (information) is only half way and you can filter most of what's going on, but then you leave the tap running and as more and more sensations are added the more the glass fills until eventually the water over-flows all over the floor...that's over-load or Too Much Information.
Becky Lyddon from Sensory Spectacle has shared some handy pdfs you can download on the different sensory senses
Visit Lincolnshire's New Sensory Processing Difficulties Website for information and training workshops