OT Time!

Understanding the Senses


Did You Know? ...

Our sensory systems are actually made up of 7 different senses, not 5. We all know about the visual (sight), auditory (hearing), olftactory (smell), gustfactory (taste), and tactile (touch) systems, but there are 2 more systems that most people do not know about.

  • Proprioception (body position/force) – Receptors in the joints and muscles allow you to sense the position your body is in and how much force you are moving with. It functions to help you move in a coordinated way.
  • Vestibular (balance and motion) – Two receptors in the inner ear (linear and angular/rotary motion) provide two main functions:
    • Protection – maintain balance and appropriate muscle tone for posture and motion
    • Discrimination – maintain posture/upright position, spatial orientation, and eye-hand coordination


Sensory Processing Disorder

is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Input from our senses help create sensory-motor movement experiences, which are used each time a person engages in fine or gross motor movements.


Sensory Modulation Difficulties

are an over or under-reaction to sensory stimuli and an inability to regulate reactions and responses to stimuli from the internal and external environments. This may lead to sensory over-responsivity, sensory under-responsivity, and/or sensory seeking/craving behaviors.


Sensory Over-Responsivity

Sometimes referred to as “sensory defensiveness,” this refers to children who respond more intensely and faster for longer durations.

Example: bothered by sounds in a busy mall


Sensory Under-Responsivity

These children show less of a response to sensory input than what would typically be expected for the situation. They take longer to respond and require more intense input before responding.

Example: doesn’t seem to notice being hurt


Sensory Seeking/Craving

These children have an intense craving for sensory experiences and will actively seek this out, usually in ways that aren’t appropriate to the environment.

Example: takes excessive risks during play, such as jumping off of furniture


Specific questions or comments?

Contact your school’s occupational therapist!


Information Compiled by Melissa Lavorgna, MOT, OTR/L


This information is also available as a printable handout.