THE CARE AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE SENSES
Sensory processing is the first step in learning and digesting the world; the significance of which cannot be under estimated.
A community programme, The Care and Development of the Senses, along with their complementary resources has been created to assist teachers, learning support staff, parents and health professionals to aid the understanding of their own sensory perceptions, and the sensory processing of the children they care for and teach.
Written resources are prepared in PDF format for ease of reading offline, as well as to share with class families as a child development resource. Workshops and lectures are also available and can be offered in relation to a particular community’s needs.
Introducing the Twelve Senses
1. Touch Sense – perceives pressure against the skin and differentiates between our body and another
2. Life Sense – perceives sensations in our body
3. Movement Sense – perceives our inner movements in relation to outer movements
4. Balance Sense – perceives the relationship of uprightness to the external spatial world
5. Smell Sense – perceives scents and is also reflected in perceiving the mood of an environment
6. Taste Sense – perceives flavours and is also reflected in aesthetics
7. Sight Sense – perceives colour through the contrasts of light and dark
8. Warmth Sense – perceives the warmth of something outside of us
9. Hearing Sense – perceives sounds and the inner movements that do or do not occur with the sound
10. Word Sense – perceives the being of language as a vehicle formed by the thoughts of another human being
11. Thought Sense – perceives the meaning behind language and symbols
12. ‘I’ Sense – perceives the individuality of another human being
The senses work together as a bridge to deliver information about the outside world to our inner world. The organs of perception develop in the womb, and the way in which stimuli is processed develops and matures through life. At birth the senses are very ‘open’ and the child is vulnerable to being over exposed to the environment because they have not yet developed a measure that helps them to filter things coming towards them.
The child’s health and development is affected by the things they are exposed to. Too much or to little exposure can cause under development, anxiety, anti-social behaviours, learning difficulties and disturbances to sleep and digestion. Sensory experiences develop what we could call an ‘inner resource library’ that we use to refer to throughout our life as a reference point to read outer events and circumstances. We use this library to help decide on our actions and with each small action we affect the direction of our life.
Understanding and caring for the development of the senses from birth lays the foundation of educating the child towards a unique individual relationship to the world.
‘Between birth and seven years old we use our sensory library to become confident in the capacities of our own physical body. Then between seven and fourteen we use it to relate to and understand the world and later on we use it to relate to and understand other human beings. Providing nourishment for the senses develops an extensive library. Health giving experiences help us to discover what our body can do, and how we fit into this wondrous natural world and it’s people.
We can use the understanding and observation of the development of the twelve senses as a guide to know when children are ready for broader experiences, how to protect them from overexposure, and how to harmonise the impressions that have entered them and been undigested. Our awareness of our own tendencies to use each sense can also help us to improve the way we work with colleagues and partners.
“A feeling for what is self and what is other is cultivated through the development and care of the senses and the nervous system.” Lisa Romero – ‘Spirit-led Community; healing the impact of technology’
The Relationship of Sensory Perception to Learning and Digestion
The senses sit on the boundary of our body – between what is inside and what is outside. Nothing becomes part of us unless it has first been met at the gateway of the senses.
Adults have had the opportunity to mature their senses towards developing an inner resource library that can be used as a measure to guide what is ‘self’ and what is ‘other’. Even with this maturity an adult’s senses are battling diversions that draw attention away from tasks, interrupt the ability to self regulate and obscure healthy social attachments. Children are born with an openness and face these diversions unguarded, as these measures are developed throughout childhood and adolescence.
To have the ability to be attentive, self regulate and have healthy social attachments is necessary to be able to learn and contribute in health giving ways. These capacities are directly connected to the way we are able to know when something enters the gateway of our senses and whether we have the ability to advance what is impressed by developing it further, or consciously dismiss it before it impresses.
From this we can relate that learning and digestion starts with perception – with the ability to know the difference between what is ‘self’ and what is ‘other’.
Whether we perceive something and /or how we perceive something, sets the ground for the next stages of learning and digestion.
The Care and Development of the Senses Resource brings examples of how to perceive the different levels of sensitivity in each sense, so that what is given in the form of education and environmental influences can be refined to assist an individual to take in the world and also contribute to the world.