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Use the information provided on this site as an educational resource for determining your options and making your own
informed choices. It is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any specific illness.
Toys, Products, and Ideas
for Sensory Education
The Senses
Touch—The tactile system provides information about the shape, size, and texture of objects. This information helps
us to understand our surroundings, manipulate objects, and use tools proficiently. When you put your hand in your
pocket and select a quarter from an assortment of change, you are using tactile discrimination.

Hearing—We use our auditory system to identify the quality and directionality of sound. Our auditory sense tells us to
turn our heads and look when we hear cars approaching. It also helps us to understand speech.

Sight—Our visual system interprets what we see. It is critical to recognizing shapes, colors, letters, words, and
numbers. It is also important in reading body language and other non-verbal cues during social interactions. Vision
guides our movements, and we continually monitor our actions with our eyes in order to move safely and effectively.

Taste and Smell—The gustatory and olfactory systems are closely linked. They allow us to enjoy tastes and smells of
foods and cause us to react negatively to unpleasant or dangerous sensations.

Body AwarenessProprioception, or information from the muscles and joints, contributes to the understanding of body
position. This system also tells us how much force is needed for a particular task, such as picking up a heavy object,
throwing a ball, or using a tool correctly.

Movement and Balance—Located in the inner ear, the vestibular system is the foundation for the development of
balance reactions. It provides information about the position and movement of the head in relation to gravity and,
therefore, about the speed and direction of movement. The vestibular system is also closely related to postural
control. For example, when the brain receives a signal that the body is falling to the side, it, in turn, sends signals that
activate muscle groups to maintain balance.

Integrating Information from the Senses
Considering all of the sensory modalities involved, it is truly amazing that one brain can organize all of the information
flooding in simultaneously and respond to the demands of the environment. The complex nature of this interaction is
illustrated in the following example:
Michael receives the instruction "Please put on your coat." In order to comply, he must

  • focus his attention on the speaker and hear what that person says
  • screen out incoming information about other things going on around him
  • see the coat and adequately make a plan for how to begin
  • see the armholes and sense muscle and joint positions in order to put his arms into the openings
  • feel, with touch awareness, that the coat is on his body correctly
  • use motor planning, touch awareness, and fine motor skills to zip or button the coat

In order to accomplish this seemingly simple task, the nervous system must integrate (focus, screen, sort, and respond
to) sensory information from many different sources. Imagine the amount of sensory integration needed to ride a
bicycle, participate in a soccer game, or pay attention in an active classroom. Individuals who have difficulties with all
or part of this process face significant challenges when engaging in daily functional activities.

Individuals with sensory integration dysfunction are not able to effectively process information from their senses and,
therefore, have difficulties with tasks such as putting on their coat. Imagine yourself in a world where something as
basic as the pull of gravity or the touch of other people is perceived as unreliable, inconsistent, or threatening. You
would not feel secure and safe, you might not be able to have fun, and your self-esteem might be compromised as you
realized that you were not able to do things as well as your peers.
Sensory integration dysfunction can result in delays in motor skills and problems with self-regulation, attention, and
behavior that can affect performance in school, at home, with peers, and during leisure and work activities.
The Senses and Sensory Input