There are 5 main senses everyone talks about; sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. There are also 3 additional senses relative to our bodies we should be talking about more often. These are proprioceptive, vestibular
"body awareness" Our proprioceptive sense helps us know where our body parts are and helps us understand how much force to use when coordinating our movements to work with objects.
- For example, our proprioceptive sense tells us to hold an egg carefully and hold a pencil lightly so that each of these objects stay intact and do not break.
- The same sense is used when we try to kick a soccer ball down the field to a player. Our sense is not only responsible for the force at which we kick but the coordination between our foot striking the ball.
- Proprioceptive sense helps us create a map in our mind of where our body parts are
- Ex: when a baby "finds their feet" this is done because the child has begun to make a map of their body
Developing Proprioceptive Senses:
- Swaddling a baby
- Baby stretches or baby massages
- Tummy time- helps to build motor muscles for later skills such as crawling & walking
- Developmentally appropriate baby games: playing with different textured or weighted objects
Difficulties with Proprioception:
Vestibular: "movement & balance"
- may appear as a lack of self-control; difficulty regulating "rough & tough play", pushing or kicking too hard, children who write too hard and break their pencil or crayon.
- Proprioceptive issues may appear with children who drop items frequently- a lack of coordination also appearing when children walk into or bump into objects, fall down steps or struggle with standing on one foot
- Sometimes, proprioceptive issues appear as a motor skill issue. It's important to talk to a healthcare provider for more information.
- Helps us move smoothly and maintain our balance.
- Vestibular sense comes from parts of our inner ear coordinating and communicating with our brain.
Developing Vestibular Sense:
- Baby massages
- Rock & swing baby gently
- Carry baby in a variety of positions
- Baby Games- developmentally appropriate to coordinate balance and help babies move in their environment -- will depend on milestones so speaking to a healthcare provider is helpful!
Difficulties with Vestibular Sense
- Children may feel unbalanced (physically) or not in control of their body. This may appear as awkward or clumsy movements.
- Children may have a hard time telling if their body is stable or supported and therefore have greater difficulty navigating steps or curbs.
- Vestibular issues may cause dizziness or nausea-- again think inner ear!
- If you have concerns about your child's vestibular sense, consult a healthcare provider to learn more.
Interoceptive: "the internal sense"
- Helps us know what is going on inside our body- whether we are tired, hungry, cold, hot etc.
- Helps us realize how to respond to these internal sensations & control our behaviors
- Feeling afraid
- Sensing tiredness
- Being aware that you need to use the bathroom
Developing the Interoceptive Sense:
- Create a routine. Routines help develop life skills & regulate emotions.
- Teach children the words for their feelings. Model this language.
- Practice mindfulness. Mediate, relax, deep breaths & teach children how to regain control and calm when they are feeling out of control.
- Strengthen their proprioceptive sense. When a child is more aware of their physical body they are more equipped to respond to the internal needs of their body.
Difficulties with Interoceptive Sense:
- Children with interoceptive issues may have a difficult time determining when they are in pain, tired or hungry. They ultimately have a harder time understanding (and therefore) responding to their body's signals.
- Children with interoceptive issues may also have trouble regulating their energy level- they may feel sensations inaccurately too. Children with interoceptive difficulties may have trouble with toilet training because they may feel the sensation to "go" differently.
- Always consult a healthcare provider if you suspect your child has difficulty with their interoceptive sense.