Eight Senses NOT Five!

Eight Senses NOT Five

Most people are taught about the 5 senses…but did you know there are actually 8 sensory systems?

What are Sensory Systems?

Our sensory systems are an important part of our nervous system.  They take in information from our environment to help us learn, grow and thrive.  They are the foundation upon which all higher level skills are built.

The Five Basic Systems:

As children we are taught about the 5 senses.  These are easy to understand and are called our external senses.

  1. Tactile System: is our sense of touch. The receptors for the tactile system are in our skin.  It is the part of the nervous system that gives us information about touch, pressure, temperature and pain. The tactile system plays an important role in protection for danger.
  2. Oral/Gustatory System: is our sense of taste.  Human beings experience emotions through our taste system via our tongue.  Food is an important part of many family traditions.  Imagine how different life would be if we couldn’t taste the difference between chocolate and broccoli!
  3. Auditory System: is our sense of hearing.  Our auditory system receives information throughout our ears and plays an important role in helping us locate things.  Think about when you hear sirens and immediately start looking around to find where they are coming from.
  4. Visual System: is our sense of vision.  Input from our visual system gets to our brian through our eyes.  Did you know that 70% of learning happens through our visual system?
  5. Smell: information comes into the nervous through the nose.  Smell and taste are closely related.  When we have a stuffy nose, we often cannot taste our food either.

The Internal Senses:

The remaining three sensory systems are not as well known. They are often referred to as our internal sensory systems because they provide us with feedback from within our body.

  1. Proprioceptive System: give us sensory input in the form of feedback from muscles and joints. The proprioceptive system works with the brain to assist in coordination, body awareness, self regulation and focus.  If you want to pick up your a box of cereal your brain guides your motor movements allowing you to pick it up without spilling or squeezing too hard.
  2. Vestibular System: is our sense of balance and movement. Our vestibular system tells us where our body is in space related to gravity.  Little crystals in our inner ear (otoliths) send signals to the brain which give feedback about head position and allow us to keep our balance.  When you step off a curb and start to trip your vestibular system signals you to change your body position so you remain standing.
  3. Interoceptive System: inform our body about inside feelings.  These are things only you can feel.  Knowing when you are thirsty, hungry, tired or need to use the restroom.  It is very difficult to potty train a child that does not have good interception because they don’t get feedback from their bladder to indicate its full and ultimately wait till “it’s too late”.  This system is also closely linked to our ability to regulate our emotions.  Children can struggle to understand what emotions feel like and therefore cannot regulate their emotions.

Why are Sensory Systems Important?

The eight sensory systems provide the foundation for all higher level skills such as learning, motor skills, attention and emotional regulation.  The sensory systems work together to give us information about our environment and help us function throughout our day.  Without input from our sensory systems your child cannot grow and develop.  One of our first opportunities to use all our senses together is tummy time.  Another activity that uses all our senses is eating.  If one of our sensory systems is over or under responsive, it affects the other systems and the child struggles with self care, motor coordination and emotional regulation.

Connect Pediatric Therapy Specializes in the treatment of children with sensory processing difficulties. We know this can affect all parts of family life including mealtime, playtime, self care and school.  We partner with families to find ways to help children thrive in all environments.

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