Sensory modulation and preschool children

In this blog we will continue to consider school readiness, looking further into children’s development and learning milestones in the years before a child starts school. The content in this blog is taken from a recent discussion with Katrina Wakely, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy with the University of Newcastle, Department of Rural Health in Tamworth NSW.

Occupational therapists, or OTs, work to assist people to develop functional skills to allow them to be independent and successful in their various roles or ‘occupations’ throughout the life cycle. Helping children to manage and to process the information they receive through their senses is an important area of childhood development where OTs can assist.

The 7 senses

Yes I was surprised too! I always thought that we had 5 senses. Let’s take a look at the ones we are familiar with;

  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Hearing
  • Vision

Different parts of the body send messages to the brain to tell us what is happening in our bodies and in our environment.

The less familiar senses include


This refers to our awareness of the position and movement of the body for example I know where my hand is even when I am not looking at it or can’t see it. Our muscles, skin and joints send information to our brain in the same way our taste buds, finger tips, nose, ears and eyes do.

Proprioception allows you to touch your nose when your eyes are closed or to walk up stairs when you are holding a big box (and can’t see your feet).

The vestibular system

This refers to our awareness of balance and movement and our ability to keep our balance. The inner ear is responsible for sending information to our brain to help us stay upright and also to know whether we are moving or whether we are looking at something that is moving. The vestibular system is related to muscle tone.

Preschool children learn to modulate the sensory information they receive. For some children this may be more difficult than for others. Some children will seek out sensory input and some children may shy away from or avoid sensory input and become distressed by certain sensations such as loud noises, lights or touch.

As an educator and/or parent you can assist by recognising that some of the behaviours children have will be related to their sensory system.

Are you interested in learning more?

Free webinar

Join me on this month for the next in my free webinar series, which will run 3 times daily from October 17-21 (10am, 12pm & 6pm AEDT). I will be speaking with occupational therapist Katrina Wakely about sensory modulation and ways to support preschool children to manage the sensory information they receive. Katrina will have some great information on what to look for, useful resources and strategies as well as when and where to refer on for help if there are concerns. I also look forward to telling you more about our wonderful programs for educators and parents, and have a great winter warmer offer for educators.

Are you interested in a new way of supporting training and development for you and your team?

For educators

The Sounds good to me course is designed for use in early childhood services and centres. It provides both excellent professional development for your team as well as everything you need to implement a fun, play based program of lessons and activities suitable for your 3-5 year group.

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For parents

Would you like to learn simple and effective ways you can help your child be ready for school?

Sounds good to me – for parents was created by speech pathologists, covering all aspects of early literacy (language and reading) skills that your child needs before they start school.

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