Why Is Sensory Processing Important?

Our brains learn through sensation. Sensation is the “food” for growth and development. Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration improve social participation, self-esteem, self-regulation and sensory-motor abilities. OT helps children better participate in school, play, sports and day-to-day activities.

We have EIGHT sensory systems to provide our brain with what it needs thrive:

Sensory System

AUDITORY (hearing):

Helps us identify volume, intensity, duration, and location of sounds; assists in determining which sounds need attention vs. background sounds.

TACTILE (touch):

Helps us identify shape, texture, temperature; pleasant vs. unpleasant touch.

OLFACTORY (smell):

Helps in identifying safe/familiar objects, people, and foods; alerts us to danger; is directly linked to the emotional centers of the brain.

VISUAL (sight):

Helps us determine near/far, depth perception, and also provides motivation to engage other sensory systems.

GUSTATORY (taste):

Helps us identify safe vs. dangerous foods.

VESTIBULAR (movement and balance):

Helps us identify if we are moving fast or slow, spinning or falling.

PROPRIOCEPTION (body awareness/coordination):

Helps us know where our body is—without looking! What the parts of it are doing, and how much force we are using to push, pull, throw.

INTEROCEPTION (internal body and emotional states):

Helps to identify internal sensations including pain, hunger, temperature, heart rate, the need to use the bathroom.

Child theraphy

Every person has their own unique threshold for sensory input. Some of us “under-respond” to sensory input, meaning that we need MORE input for us to pay attention and respond. We may actively seek out more input, or we may remain in our state of unawareness. Some of us “over-respond” to sensory input, meaning that we are more easily BOTHERED by input that may be fine for others. We may try to manage or control the input that is bothersome to us, or we may use a strategy of avoiding the input all together. What is “just right” for me may be too much for you…or maybe not enough. 

Each of us works and learns best when our sensory input is regulated to our unique “just right” level. It is important to know how to recognize your (or your child’s) sensory signals. Occupational Therapists study in-depth anatomy, physiology, neuroanatomy, and neuropathology. They are trained to not just ask the “what” questions, but also the “why”, “how”, and “what if” questions surrounding sensory treatments. Many sensory-based strategies and tools can trigger adverse responses that require clinical knowledge to be analyzed, modified as needed, or immediately discontinued for the well-being of the individual. 

Many of us regulate our own sensory input without even thinking about it, helping ourselves to be in our “just right” state to work, learn, and relax most effectively. For example:

  • Auditory: Adjust the volume of the car radio
  • Tactile: Choice of clothing material
  • Olfactory: Scent of hygiene products
  • Visual: Light from overhead or from the window
  • Gustatory: “Comfort” foods
  • Vestibular: Using a rocking chair
  • Proprioception: Sitting on your own hands/feet
  • Interoception: Dressing in layers to accommodate changing temperatures


For Occupational Therapy for your child, contact Mobile Therapy Centers of America today by phone at 800-977-9072 or email the team at: asktheteam@mtcus.com to see how therapy can move beyond traditional boundaries to include elements of everyday life, thus better equipping your child for the world outside. MTC can help your child be one step closer to independence and success in their journey.


If you have any questions regarding our services, please call us at 800-977-9072 to schedule a FREE consultation/screening