Sensory integration for education

Creating positive experiences in education can transform how children learn, remember and grow.

Sensory Integration (SI) looks at how every part of the human body receives information from the environment and how the mind interprets this information to help us respond more accurately to the environment. It is one of the foundations of daily life. It is SI that guides people as they dress, eat dinner, socialise with friends and go to work. It is also an incredibly useful tool that can be guided to help children retain information and that can inspire, teach and support them as they learn.

SI is a powerful tool and is often used in education for children with learning difficulties or disabilities. When understood and guided within the right parameters, it can allow for the educational environment to become more closely aligned with how children want to learn and can make education an entertaining experience as opposed to a chore.

Research undertaken by neuroscientists has found that the mind absorbs new information through sensory integration. Feelings and sensations are actually a vital part of thinking patterns and by tapping into these, you can change the way people learn.  And what is even more interesting, is that the sensory list extends well beyond the traditional five. There are, in fact, eight.

The senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste are the most well-known, but layered on top of these are three other areas of sensory input that play an important role in how children learn. These three are defined as: proprioception, vestibular and interoception. Proprioception refers to the muscles and joints that tell our brain where our body parts are, vestibular is the inner ear and the understanding as to which direction we’re going in, and interoception is when the body tells the mind what’s going on inside. Each of these senses provides the mind with a holistic view of everything the person sees and feels. In fact, by tuning in to each of these senses, the child is able to create a complete picture of the world around them and the input they are receiving. And for the teacher, accessing these in all aspects of their education can transform how they engage with their students and the ways in which they learn.

So, it is time to tap into the senses. To build feelings around the subject matter and to use sensory input to engage with the topic and become more immersed in it. Feelings catch our attention, give meaning to memories and remind us of things that are important to us. When we smell something, or hear a song or touch a particular surface, these sensory moments can trigger vivid memories that can play out as movies in the mind. Imagine the possibilities if education could tap into this incredible reservoir of memory and sensory input?