Friday, February 4, 2011

The Tactile, Vestibular, and Proprioceptive Systems

Welcome to Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips!
I’d like to talk a little more about sensory processing disorders. Yesterday, I answered the question "What is a sensory processing disorder?"  For this post, I plan to share more information about a few of the senses that most of us don’t know that much about. I’ll start with the sense of touch….
Tactile System: The tactile system is the sense of touch. This is the sensory system that helps us learn about our bodies and our environment. It is important in the development of a child’s body scheme (the internal map of our body and how we use our body to interact with the world around us). This system is composed of two subsystems: (1) discriminatory- allows us to know where we are being touched, (2) protective- lets us know if we are in contact with something dangerous. Tactile input is very important for the development of fine-motor skills, visual perception skills, and articulation of sounds.
The Vestibular System: The vestibular system is the sensory system that responds to accelerated and decelerated movement. It is through the vestibular system that we learn directions and are aware of our body position in space. This input helps us to form a basic reference for all sensory experiences. This system has interconnections with many parts of the body and influences many different functions, for example muscle tone, postural control, balance, eye and neck muscles.
The Proprioceptive System: Proprioceptive information is sensations from muscles and joints. Proprioceptive input tells the brain when and how muscles are contracting and stretching and how joints are being compressed or stretched. It helps us to know where our bodies are in space and how they are moving. Proprioceptive input provides a calming effect. It works along with the vestibular system.
            With sensory processing disorders, one, two, or all three of these sensory systems might be involved (as well as any of the other senses). An experienced therapist can evaluate and determine which systems are involved, allowing for more specific treatment planning, which leads to more effective treatment! In my next entry, I’ll share a variety of sensory activities that are alerting, calming, etc. Cheers!
Photo by David Castillo Dominici @

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  1. Thank-you for this. :) I found this post when I was googling for a resource to link to that could help explain the Vestibular and Proprioception senses to my readers. I have linked back to this post in my blog and want to know if I can have permission to add you to the resources section on my website ( under SPD?

    Also, I will definitely like your facebook page with mine as a you requested above. :)

    Thanks for your time and attention, and definitely for this post. :)

    I look forward to your reply on whether or not I can add you as a resource to my website. :)


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