Sensory Processes

There are eight sensory systems from which we get information form the environment and our body:

Sight: vision, appearance of objects and people.

Hearing: information about sounds in the environment (loud, soft, high, low)

Smell: types of smell e.g., musty, flowery, pungent.

Taste: information about types of taste e.g., sweet, sour, salty, bitter.

Touch: objects tactile qualities e.g., touch, pressure, texture, hard, soft.

Vestibular: information about where our body is in space, speed, direction, and movement.

Proprioception: information about body parts and their movement.

Interoception: information about our body state e.g., hungry, tired, anxious, scared.

A group of blue characters, all wearing blue and yellow clothes. The characters are depicting the senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, proprioception and interoception.

Sensory Processing

Throughout the body, we have sensory receptors that pick up sensory information and transmit it to the brain. The brain then interprets that information and chooses the appropriate response for that particular message. This is called sensory processing, it relates to our ability to receive, organise, process, and use information from the environment. 

When a person has difficulties with sensory processing, they may be overwhelmed by sensory inputs. This may lead to avoid or escape responses and wanting to run away or hide, it can even lead to meltdowns.

Sometimes sensory information does not reach the brain to be processed and the individual may not display a response at all. This can also impact the individual’s activity and performance can be affected; for example, a deaf person not hearing you call them or a blind person not seeing you wave hello.

Point to ponder

We all process information differently. Some of us like calm places, others prefer something more lively. Some of us surround ourselves with strong perfume, others prefer more subtle fragrance. Hot, spicy curries are many people’s favourite, others prefer plain meals with little seasoning. How do your preferences differ from those around you?

Do you have any issues with sensory processing? Do you know someone who does? How does it affect things day to day?

Do you prefer to go shopping when it is quiet, or do you love the liveliness and atmosphere of crowds?

How do the bright lights make you feel? Do you like the big spaces?

Image of an empty supermarket aisle.
Photo by Nathália Rosa on Unsplash
Image of a busy shopping mall
Photo by Heamosoo Kim on Unsplash
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