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Sensory Strategies: Sanity Restoration for Family Life - Part 2

Sensory Strategies: Sanity Restoration for Family Life - Part 2
Rondalyn V. Whitney, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
August 10, 2016

Rondalyn Whitney: I am looking forward to sharing with you a little bit more about how to use sensory strategies to help families have a better life, and get some more sanity in their world. I will return to the learning objectives as we go through today's presentation, so that we can keep ourselves on track, and check in with whether or not we have met these objectives. Before I start today, I want to do a very quick review of Part 1. I know some people will watch all three of these webinars, and some might jump in and just do 1 or 2. I think it is always good idea to take a moment and review what we talked about in Part 1.



Figure 1. Review of senses.

There is really no learning without sensation (sensory learning) because all of the nerves to the brain are sensory nerves. The only way information can go in to the brain is through a sensory pathway. That is a very important concept to understand and we are going to return to this over, and over again.

We also talked yesterday about the senses. I am going to do a very brief review of those in just a second.

If we have an emotional connection to something, we remember that at that deep emotional level. It can either be a positive thing, like me remembering the smell of cookies my grandmother made. It was a very long time ago, but I can remember that smell as if it was right now in front of me. Every time I think of it I have this warm lovely feeling because I had the world's best grandma. I also have memories of really terrible smells. We had a fire at my office one time, and I still remember that smell. Whether it is a positive, or a negative memory, those are often based in our senses. This is an important thing to understand as we work with children. It may look like they are having a reaction to something that does not make any sense to us, but they might be having an emotional reaction to a sensory memory.

We talked about that yesterday, and we will return to it again and put another layer on top of that.  I think it is always important to continually circle back and look at the outcomes that we measure and that really matter. Are we measuring what matters to the individuals or the families that we work with? We talked about that yesterday, and we will return to that again, today.


Again, all learning occurs through the senses, whether you are learning something through your eyes, like reading, or learning something through you ears, like discrimination of sounds, and music. You can learn something through touch, like how to hold a pencil, or proprioception to move your arm left to right on a page. All that information occurs through the senses (Figure 2).


Figure 2. Senses.

We have five senses that most of us learned about in kindergarten or preschool. We learned about three more in neurology classes. I have included one more as we start to think about learning, and sensory motor learning, because there is another pathway that goes hand and hand.

The five senses we all know about are visionauditory tactile , olfactory, and gustatory. Gustatory is one that people sometimes forget to include, but it is a very important one. Then, we have the three others that we talk about in sensory integration as a therapeutic intervention. Proprioception is our orientation to position. Spacial orientation is the vestibular system, or the receptors in the inner ear. Receptors for proprioception are in the joints and muscles.

Then, interoception is the sensory system of the inner body, like in our organs, heart, blood vessels, and so on. The receptors are inside us.

Finally, the praxis and kinesthetic system helps us understand how to move.

Sensation comes in, gives us information through these systems, and then we put that together to have a motor response, which would come out through the praxic system, or the kinesthetic system. That is a brief review of yesterday.

rondalyn v whitney

Rondalyn V. Whitney, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Rondalyn Whitney’s research focuses on emotional disclosure to reduce stress and improve quality of life and family quality of life when raising a child with disabilities.  She is the author of more than 6 books, her work has been published in over 10 scholarly journals and she is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She serves as a reviewer for several journals.

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