Exploring the Benefits of Your Child's Unique Sensory Processing

By Sensory Processing Expert, Monique Thoonsen, author of Making Sense of Your Senses and Sensory Solutions in the Classroom

Making Sense of Your Senses

It can be bothersome when we experience too little or too much sensory input and are therefore under- or over-reponsive.

A child may for instance may be bothered by others, making too much noise while they are trying to build a house for their stuffed toys. Or they may not understand that others find they play too rough. But … we almost forget that it can also be great not to register all sensory input or to register input more then average. I would like to invite you to explore this positive side with me.

Generally, people tend to react to sensory input in one of three ways: neutrally, under- or overresponsive.

Neutral Sensory Processing
When you react neutrally to sensory input, you generally experience sensory input strong enough to respond to it in an adaptive way. When your name is called you hear it, when a ball comes rolling in your direction you see it, and when food is being cooked you smell it.

You also are not easily bothered by input, and you don’t normally lack input. For example, if a child is having lunch at the school cafeteria, they can talk to their friend. They can focus their attention on them, on what they say and do. They notice other sounds, movements and maybe touches around them, but can usually ignore them. They only get distracted every now and then when someone laughs loudly or bumps into them. If they are in a very quiet room, without much to see, feel and hear, they can still concentrate perfectly well on their activity, for example making a drawing. They remain active enough, their thoughts don’t wander too much, and they continue drawing. In fact, they can handle sensory input well in almost all situations. They adapt to situations and surroundings easily and feel fine and can do the activities they want to do.

When people are regularly underresponsive, they receive too little and too weak sensory input. This means that they do not receive all information from the environment and from their body, and therefore do not respond to everything. When their name is mentioned, they don’t always hear it, when a ball comes rolling in their direction they may not notice it and they only smell the cooking when strongly fragrant spices are being used.

But how nice is it, to play in a busy playground and not be disturbed by all the sounds, sights, and smells around them? And how wonderful is it, when they can focus on their book while other children are playing in the same room. They are not bothered by that, because the sensory input that is generated does not all register. They do their thing without many problems. Great to be underresponsive!

Being underresponsive means that people are not easily bothered by something. They are quite flexible. They don’t care how big the group is, what kind of seat they sit in, how much noise there is and how fast they move.

When people are generally overresponsive, they receive too much and too strong sensory input. This means that they receive a lot of information from the environment and from inside their body and are quickly bothered by it. They always hear it when their name is mentioned. They may be startled by a ball rolling their way and find the smells coming from the kitchen distracting.

But the fact that they experience much, and strong input has the advantage that they perceive much more details than the average person. Music has no secrets for them; for example, they hear that complementing voice in the song, and in a film, they notice the role of music very well. They notice subtle changes in the environment, and can point these out to others. They immediately notice that someone has a haircut, and complement them on it. They can enjoy the rustle of the leaves in the trees, the movement of the grass in the wind, the metallic colours of a magpie and the smells around them. The joy of being overresponsive!

Being overresponsive means that people perceive sensory input more intensely. They notice more details from the environment and therefore know before anyone else notices, when someone needs attention.

Discover Your ‘Super-Sensory Powers’!
I sincerely hope that with this information you can give a positive spin to your child’s way of sensory processing. That you discover their ‘super-sensory powers’ and enjoy them immensely!

Would you like your child or student to discover their senses and their need for more or less sensory input? Take a look at Making Sense of Your Senses!

Making Sense of Your Senses