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15 Common Sensory Terms and Definitions

Sensory bin with seashells

The world of sensory processing and sensory integration can be overwhelming, especially with all of the lingo. I've compiled a list of the most common phrases and terms and their definitions. These definitions are meant for basic understanding and have been simplified.

Sensory Processing: This is how a person perceives the sensory information in their environment. Sensory information includes what we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Sensory information also helps us to know where our bodies are in relation to objects in our environment and maintain our balance.

Sensory Processing Disorder: Inability to perceive and regulate sensory input; adversely impacts day to day function

Sensory Regulation: This is the optimal state that we want our bodies to be in. When we are regulated we are calm, composed and organized.

Dysregulation: This is a state of overwhelm. The central nervous system is on overload and cannot regulate incoming sensory information effectively.

Sensory Seeker: This is a child who actively seeks out sensory input to regulate their central nervous system. They may appear impulsive, move quickly, fall or crash frequently and appear not to get hurt as easily as other children.

Sensory Avoider: This is a child who seems hypersensitive to sensory input. They may dislike certain textures, tastes, smells or become uncomfortable in busy environments. They may appear cautious with their movement and avoid taking risks. They may cover their ears and appear bothered by certain sounds.

Olfactory: Refers to the sense of smell

Auditory: Refers to our ability to hear or our sense of sound

Tactile: Refers to the sense of touch

Gustatory: Sense of taste

Vestibular : This is our balance system. It is located in our inner ear and activated anytime we shift our head away from midline. This system is integral to our sense of balance

Proprioceptive System: This refers to our sense of body awareness and our innate ability to know where are body and extremities are even when our eyes are closed.

Proprioceptive Input: Deep touch, such as bear hugs. Can also refer to "heavy work" such as pulling/pushing/running/crashing

Gravitational Insecurity: An intense fear response whenever child's feet leave the ground

Postural Instability: Weak core and trunk muscles making it difficult to maintain an upright position


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