Recently, I was lucky enough to do team training at Stop Parenting Alone. I was invited to chat with the staff all about the sensory system and the role it plays in regulation. That right there is quite a juicy topic.
What came first the stressed emotional system or the dysregulated sensory system. I have been at this long enough to not even touch that head-on.
The moral of the story is that both systems can and should work together to calm the human. On the flip side, either of these systems can also wreak havoc on the human. So knowing how the sensory system can enhance the emotional system is a win for all. Right?
When I speak to anyone about the sensory system I feel like I share my personal disclaimer.
I do not speak about sensory from the* frame of reference for Sensory Processing Disorder or Sensory Dysfunction. I prefer to speak to the sensory preferences that we ALL have.
These preferences can either contribute or interfere with our “regulation” By regulation we can be referring to any or all of these parts that affect how we function in life – attention, motor skills, executive skills, emotions, affect and so much more. It is never a one-way street. It is a beautiful dance that requires all parts to cooperate to = 1 regulated human.
Anyone of the above mentioned parts can impact one’s sensory or emotional system.
- Emotions can affect the sensory system which will limit your ability to perform a functional skill.
- Difficulty in a skill area can trigger emotional and sensory responses as your brain tries to keep all systems in check.
- The way your body interprets sensory information can definitely affect the way you complete a functional skill which can set off an emotional response.
You see it’s very complicated and more importantly can not be separated.
So what do we do? We learn and implement. The more information we have the more we can layer and integrate to help out colleagues, parents, and clients. Knowing the sensory preferences we have and why we need them is a powerful tool.
The beauty of this perspective is that we can all benefit from the information we have about the sensory system. We don’t have to have a disorder or dysfunction to layer sensory activities into our world. We can use it in a psychotherapy session with clients, we can use it in a school counseling session, we can use it in our airports, carpools, classrooms, playrooms, playgrounds and PE classes!!
My absolute favorite is when I catch sensory activities being used and they don’t even know it! Chances are you have used it yourself. It may look like this:
- You had a crap day and hit the weights extra heavy -proprioception to calm
- You have a crying colicky baby and you rock the hours away to keep them calm -the vestibular system
- You are preparing to study for an exam and pullout your citrus essential oil – the olfactory system
- You have to sleep under a heavy blanket even though you have to crank the AC b/c it’s 98 outside – the calming proprioceptive system
- You go through a jumbo pack of gum during a conference or continuing ed class. – the alerting tactile and proprioceptive system
- Your family will walk out of a restaurant if it’s too noisy because they know you will be exhausted trying to keep it together. This is my family and my overresponsive auditory system.
- Your 2-year old seems to participate in his own version of the downward dog right before his bedtime routine begins.
- Your kid reads upside down under sofa cushions. This is basically a rave with vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and even the olfactory and visual system at the DJ booth.
Back to the team training. They did walk away with a review of the main systems and the calming activities they can integrate into their sessions so they can help calm the sensory system and body while they work their magic on the emotional system. WIN for all!
So now you know I am not a “Sensory OT”. I am an OT that uses sensory strategies to give parents, teachers and related professionals another layer of knowledge to develop amazing humans.
💥Yes, I can come to your space and chat with your team.
💥Yes, I can come to your school and talk to your teachers.
💥Yes, I can come to talk to your parents’ group.
💥Yes, we can set up a session where we will come up with sensory preferences activities you can use at home with your child.
And thanks to the internet we can do this anywhere in the world.
Lets set up a call now to get a training for your team.
P.S. We also dived into body awareness, processing speed, motor skills, executive skills and what else an OT can do-yes, it got CRAZY! More on that next week.