Did you know that your child has 7 senses?
Most people think that children only have 5 senses - touch, sight, sound, smell and taste. However, your child (and you) have 2 additional, or ‘hidden’ sensory systems, that work together to organize and regulate the other senses. These 2 hidden sensory systems are the proprioception sense, which gives your child information about body position and the movement of their body parts, and the vestibular sense gives your child information about the position of their head in space and their balance.
Your child’s 7 senses all work together to achieve ‘sensory integration’. Sensory integration is how your child uses the information from their body and the environment to respond to daily challenges and new circumstances (emotional, social or cognitive learning). Sensory Integration helps your child with their self-regulation, self-care, activity level, attention, social functioning and emotional regulation.
However, most children with special needs find it hard to understand the sensory information from their bodies and their environment. This is called Sensory Processing Disorder.
If your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, you might notice that:
There are ongoing challenges for children with Sensory Processing Disorder, which can interfere with their daily life and with learning. If your child’s senses are not regulated, it is difficult for learning to happen in any environment, including in class or during a Therapy session. For example, it would be difficult for your child to focus on learning new vocabulary and social skills if they need to move constantly without the ability to sustain their attention and engagement. Another example is, it would not be possible for a Speech Therapist to give your child tactile cues for speech sounds by touching their face, if they are over-responsive to touch.
However, your child can still learn many skills while having a Sensory Processing Disorder. The key is to create the right conditions for learning before the teaching happens. A great way to achieve this is combined Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy sessions. Instead of your child working on skills in isolation, these combined sessions focus on your child’s learning, while meeting their sensory needs. During these sessions, the Occupational Therapist will first regulate your child’s senses to create the optimal conditions for learning and provide the sensory inputs required for your child to be alert and attentive. The Speech Therapist will then engage your child in learning and teach them the skills necessary to improve their communication.
From our experience working with children abroad and in Thailand, children respond well to these combined Speech and Occupational Therapy sessions and learning tends to happen quickly. We hope to see more of these combined sessions in Thailand in the years to come.
This article was written by:
Chiman Estephan, MSLP, MSPA, CPSP, ACAS
Advanced Certified Autism Specialist & Speech Language Therapist
Camila Gutiérrez V, OTRL
Occupational Therapist (Sensory Integration Specialty)
The Expat Speechie
Welcome to my blog!