Coming to Our Senses During Sensory Awareness Month

Learn about our sensory systems and when they are out of sorts

October is Sensory Awareness Month! For this month’s newsletter, we dive into the eight (yes – eight!) senses of the human body and outline their function as well as signs of dysfunction.

While awareness about sensory processing disorder has dramatically increased in the past decade, there is still quite a lot of confusion regarding sensory systems in our bodies and how they play a part in our everyday lives. The impairment or loss of sensory function can range greatly in severity in terms of its negative impact on daily functioning, but any negative effect on activities of daily living warrants skilled therapy to remediate.

Check out our main article to learn more, and see the side bar for event info!


Interoception: How I Feel: Sensing the World from the Inside Out

Written by an OTR, this book provides information regarding the often-overlooked eighth sensory system, interoception, along with strategies for children and adults with deficits in this sensory system.

Sensory Pea Pod

Provide a quiet space for your sensory-sensitive child to sit in while they read, engage with their tablet or simply relax. It provides an even pressure around the child’s body, providing calm sensory input.

For other product ideas that target improved sensory processing, oral motor and language skills, please ask to “shop” at CTC’s very own product table, located within our clinic!

The Eight Sensory Systems, Explained

The great eight and what they do

Even as a young child, you likely learned about the “5 senses” at school: seeing (visual); hearing (auditory); smelling (olfactory); tasting (gustatory); and touching (tactile). Whether they are present, absent or not functioning optimally, these sensory systems all play pivotal roles in our experience of the world and how we respond to it. In addition to these senses are ones that most of us did not learn as children, these being the vestibular system (i.e., movement and balance), the proprioceptive system (i.e., body awareness in space), and the interoceptive system (i.e., the ability to feel what is happening inside our body). In total, there are actually eight senses of human perception that we can currently name, discuss and treat.

Visual System

The visual system allows us to detect color, shape, orientation and motion. The primary visual area of the brain is located in the occipital lobe, although other portions of the brain are involved in the processing of visual information as well. Sensory deficits often noted in the visual system can include difficulties with ocular motor control as well as a decreased ability to visually process information.

Signs of visual system dysfunction include:

  • Difficulties discriminating between/among shapes, letters, etc.
  • Appears sensitive to light
  • Difficulty with eye contact
  • Trouble finding things, even when in front of them
  • Hesitant on stairs

Auditory System

The auditory system is responsible for hearing. It allows us to detect changes in sound frequency or amplitude, and allows us to process verbal language. Concerns with this system often warrant an evaluation of an audiologist to rule out Auditory Processing

Disorder (also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder).

Signs of auditory system dysfunction include:

  • Difficulty understanding spoken language, particularly in noisy environments
  • Difficulty localizing sounds
  • Frequent requests for repetition (including “Huh?” and “What?”)
  • Does not remember what they’ve just been told

Olfactory System

The olfactory system is responsible for processing smell. The olfactory bulb, located in the brain, transmits smell information from the nose to the brain. It discriminates among odors, enhances detection of odors, and often receives information from higher levels of the brain to process the information it receives.

Signs of olfactory system dysfunction include:

  • Reduced ability to detect odors
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • A change in the normal perception of odors

Gustatory System

The gustatory system provides us with our sense of taste. It allows us to distinguish between safe and harmful foods, such as meat that has spoiled or dairy products that have gone sour. As a result of the process of evolution, salty and sweet foods are generally regarded as pleasant foods, while sour and bitter foods are less appealing. This is theorized because salt provided a critical element for the human body and sweet tastes indicated foods that would provide energy when food was scarce, while sour tastes could indicate spoiled foods containing bacteria and bitter tastes could protect humans from poisonous plants/substances.

Signs of gustatory system dysfunction include:

  • Reduced ability to taste
  • Reduced ability to smell (as smell and taste are linked)
  • Loss of appetite


Come celebrate Halloween with us at a fun and family-friendly event!

On Saturday, October 23, Children’s Therapy Connections will host its first-ever trunk-or-treat! Here are  details of the event and some of the fun things to look forward to:


Enjoy trick-or-treating in a controlled and safe environment, where kids can roam from car to car to collect treats. This is also a great opportunity to work on improving social-language skills when communicating with others!

Therapy-Based Activities

CTC’s therapists will provide and facilitate a number of therapy-based activities that will enhance your child’s experience of Halloween and the fall season.

Photo booth

A CTC therapist will be available to snap a picture of your child in front of a fall-themed photo backdrop. Make sure to stop by in order to capture a memory!

Bounce House

Kids can jump out their sugar-fueled energy in a bounce house that will be set up for this special event!

Ask your child’s therapist(s) for additional details!

Vestibular System

The vestibular system contributes to our sense of balance and orientation in space, along with the proprioceptive and visual systems. It allows us to move smoothly and be able to remain upright when sitting and standing.

Signs of vestibular dysfunction include:

  • Dizziness
  • Poor balance
  • Motion intolerance
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Dislikes head being tilted back (e.g., for diaper changes)

Proprioceptive System

The proprioceptive system is the system responsible for sensing the position, location, orientation and movement of the muscles and joints. Neurons in the inner ear, which detect motion and orientation, along with stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments of the body, provide the body with this sensory information.

Signs of proprioceptive dysfunction include:

  • Poor balance and postural control
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Frequently bumping into or dropping things
  • Pressing too hard on pen/pencil/crayons
  • Playing “rough”

Interoceptive System

Interoception is often an overlooked sensory system, although it plays a part of our everyday lives in a myriad of ways. This system relates to the internal receptors- or interoceptors- that can detect the physiological or physical symptoms of the body. Some examples include hunger, thirst, and the need to urinate or defecate.

Signs of interoceptive dysfunction include:

  • Trouble with potty training
  • Chronic incontinence or constipation
  • Inability to recognize when hungry or full
  • Atypical responses to pain or stress

If you suspect that your child may have sensory processing issues, schedule an evaluation with an occupational therapist (OT), who can assess each system and determine if treatment is warranted.