Sensory Systems in Concert

The sensory systems work in concert with each other to enable an infant to engage with the environment and gain control over the body and its capabilities. Consider a sensory explanation of what one might observe when watching a six-month-old infant playing ball using all seven senses. As he touches and hits the ball, the infant receives cues as to whether the ball is hard or soft, smooth or rough. He discovers the texture and taste using his tongue to lick the ball when it is near or in his mouth, as well as any odors by smelling the ball. The infant receives visual stimulation by the color of the ball and by watching it roll or bounce. The auditory system is triggered when a noise, such as a thud, ring, or squeak is made as the infant hits the surface of the ball, throws it, or shakes it. The vestibular system is activated as the infant is sitting up, maintaining his balance. Finally, the infant uses proprioception as he is moving his arms and legs in space while throwing, pushing, or hitting the ball and watching it with his eyes and maintaining his balance.

Adults can encourage sensory development in their infants by providing a safe and stimulating environment for discovery. Sensory exploration is important to infant development, specifically for establishing new neuronal pathways in the brain and strengthening already developed neuronal pathways.

See also: METHODS OF STUDYING CHILDREN; MILESTONES OF DEVELOPMENT

Bibliography

Coren, Stanley, Lawrence Ward, and James Enns. Sensation and Perception, 4th edition. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College, 1994.

Dunn, Winnie. "Sensory Dimensions of Performance.'' In C. Christiansen and C. Baum eds., Occupational Therapy: Overcoming Human Performance Deficits. Thorofare, NJ: Slack, 1991. Kandel, Eric, James Schwartz, and Thomas Jessell. Principles of Neural Science, 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Erin Nash Casler

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