Our sensory system is integral to human behavior. It allows us to interact with and experience our
environment through touch, sight, smell, sound and taste. It even allows us to interact through
movement and our body’s reaction to those movements. All of us are different in how we respond to
Many of us have preferred smells, sounds, tastes, and textures. For example, you may love driving with
the windows open, music blaring, on a warm spring morning with the smell of flowers in the air. Maybe
you love the taste of a delicious, savory pizza while wrapping yourself in a warm soft blanket at the end
of a long week. Some of us love spinning in circles or swinging on swings, sliding on slides, or the thrill of
a roller coaster. Sensory experience surrounds us. Sensations impact the way we perceive our
environment as well as impact the way we interact with our daily activities and routines.
On occasion, some children and adults can have a heightened awareness of these sensations. Sensory
defensiveness can occur with any of the aforementioned systems. For example, you may see your child
run in their room when you are cooking your special taco recipe for “Taco Tuesday” after they smell the
spices in the air. They may dread going to school on those days that they know there is a fire alarm drill.
Your child may avoid certain clothing fabrics or tags, or refuse a certain texture of food. Some children
avoid swings or get car sick very easily. Most of us have that one thing that we do not like that rubs our
sensory system the wrong way. Personally, I always have tried to like cottage cheese, but have thus far
been unsuccessful. For most, those things do not typically disrupt our daily life or cause us to avoid or
hide from the input when it is around us.
If you feel that your child is affected by sensory input and avoids it to the point of impacting his or her
daily routine, Occupational Therapy could be the right fit for your family. Occupational Therapists can
educate the family as well as provide strategies on ways to address and integrate sensory input into the
child’s life and routines. We gradually assist with tolerance of the noxious sensory stimulus. We work on
“desensitizing” the particular sensory system or systems that your child has heightened awareness and
work with everyone on coming up with ways to assist with integrating within the child’s tolerance level.
It is so important to look at the whole picture of the child and to work with them to achieve their goals
of interacting without fear or anxiety of experiencing an adverse reaction with their sensory system.