The sensory system is an intricate system that actually includes a few different systems: tactile, auditory, olfactory, visual, gustatory, vestibular, proprioceptive, and interoceptive systems. The purpose of these systems is to help our body process the things around us, as well as within us. Each system processes a different sense, and most of us have heard of the five senses (sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing). You may not be as familiar with the other three systems. The vestibular system helps us to process movement, keeps us balanced, and helps with coordinating eye movements. The inner ear is the main processing center for the vestibular system. The proprioceptive system is located in our joints and muscles. The main purpose of it is to provide feedback to our body, which helps us understand where we are in space, grade the level of force or pressure that we use, and is responsible for controlling our responses to sensory input. The interoceptive system is responsible for sending signals from the brain to and from the other organs in the body. This system helps us to identify internal feelings, such as hunger, thirst, and emotions.
In OT, we use specific activities to engage the sensory systems in order to help to integrate the systems and help to regulate a child. There are tools and activities that you can use at home throughout your child’s day to help provide sensory input that can be calming and regulating for your child. The list we’ve compiled includes activities, toys, and tools that can be used to alert a child, calm a child, and provide a variety of sensory input. If your child struggles with sensory processing, it is always best to work with an occupational therapist who is knowledgeable about sensory processing to find the right tools to help your child!