child on swing
07/07/2015 | Body and movementOtherSensory

Swing, jump, roll! How movement helps our body

So, here’s a refresher from our school days. Can you name all of our senses? So there’s smell, sight, taste, touch and sound. But did you know we have two more senses (and no, intuition is not one of them!). You’ll most likely hear about these additional two senses when speaking with an Occupational Therapist about your child’s sensory processing difficulties.

Along with the 5 well-known senses, we all have 2 exceptionally important additional senses that help us function appropriately in our daily lives.

The Vestibular System is the gravity and movement sense. It tells us how our body is positioned, if we are lying down or sitting upright. It tells us if we are moving fast, slow or sitting still. The vestibular system is responsible for balance, effects muscle tone, helps us coordinate our body, and develop a hand dominance. It is responsible for our attention span and concentration, and even has connections to parts of the brain that control emotion and feelings.

Some fun games which stimulate the vestibular system include:
– Swinging on swings
– Sitting and wobbling on a therapy ball
– Riding a bike/scooter
– Log rolls
– Windmills

The Proprioceptive System gives us our body awareness through messages sent from receptors in our joints and muscles. It helps us know where our body is in relation to objects in the environment. It’s our proprioceptive system which assists in spatial awareness, the smoothness and control of fine and gross motor movements and change the amount of force we apply to objects to manipulate them (Eg. We would pat a puppy differently to grown dog!).

Children with differences in the way they process proprioceptive information will often seek rough play and crashing games in order to give themselves a better idea of where they are in space as these games stimulate those receptors in the joints and muscles.

Activities which stimulate the proprioceptive system are:
– Squashes under pillows/doonas- wrap them up like a sausage roll!
– Jumping on the trampoline (which is also a great vestibular system stimulator)
– Tight bear hugs from others

If you think your child may have differences in the way they process any or all of their 7 senses, an Occupational Therapist can complete a thorough assessment to identify and help treat any issues.

Author: Alicia Bellert
Occupational Therapist