What is multisensory processing and why is it important

Video What is multisensory processing and why is it important

You may have heard the term “multisensory processing” before, but do you know what it means and understand how it can help improve learning outcomes?

Do you know how to incorporate multisensory into your child’s learning?

These are the topics we will dive into in this article!

what is multisensory processing?

“multisensory processing refers to the interaction of signals arriving almost simultaneously from different sensory modalities”.

multisensory refers to more than one sense.

We all know our 5 main senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. but we also have 3 hidden senses: vestibular, proprioception and interoception.

We are constantly bombarded with sensory information from our environment. this sensory information is not directed to just one sense at a time. For example, when you eat breakfast you experience not only taste (gustatory), but also smell (olfactory), touch (tactile), and visual (sight).

another example is when you are driving. experience visual information as well as auditory (hearing traffic), vestibular (movement of not only the car but also when you turn your head to look around), tactile (touching the steering wheel and seat), and more! /p>

wow! that’s a lot of sensory information, a lot of multisensory processing!

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Our children also constantly experience multi-sensory stimulation throughout the day. in the morning when getting up and getting ready for the day, at school with friends and while learning, during sports or other extracurricular activities, at home while eating, dressing, bathing, etc., and while getting ready for bed at night.

Our bodies receive sensory information from our environment and our brain interprets that information which then produces a reaction. One of two things usually happens: our brain correctly interprets sensory information and our body is able to tolerate the information and react accordingly; or our brain interprets the sensory input inappropriately and our body cannot tolerate the input and creates a huge overreaction. this second option can occur with multiple senses or only one at a time. this is where sensory processing challenges occur.

but let’s stick with multisensory processing for now! For a child to successfully move through her day and her daily tasks, she must be able to process all the different types of input simultaneously. plus, from a learning perspective, when we provide learning opportunities that incorporate multiple senses (multi-sensory!), the child has a better chance of success with memory, auditory processing, and more!

challenges with multisensory processing

How do you know if your child has multisensory processing issues?

will look very similar or even identical to general sensory processing challenges! but you may be able to identify some differences.

For example, a child with vestibular processing issues may dislike and avoid movement-based activities. however, a child with vestibular and visual processing problems may have significant difficulty with eye-hand coordination tasks.

Another example is that a child with auditory processing issues may have difficulty following 2- or 3-step auditory instructions, while a child with auditory and visual processing issues may have difficulty following auditory and visual instructions equally.

Because our 8 senses are all connected to each other in one way or another, if a child has difficulty processing information from one system, they are likely to have difficulty processing information from another system as well. for example, one research study found that, “although speech perception relies on sound processing, what we actually hear can be influenced by visual cues provided by lip movements.” therefore, if a child has difficulties with auditory and visual processing, her ability to understand and follow speech can be a major challenge.

the benefits of multisensory activities

Let’s talk briefly about why activities designed with multisensory components are so beneficial for all children.

a research study reported that working memory and attention may be directly related to successful multisensory processing.

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another study found that many cognitive skills and processes depend on successful multisensory processing.

If we break down the components of working memory, we keep in mind that working memory requires the use of the visual system, the auditory system, and often the tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive (touch and movement!) – remember what we see and what we hear, what we touch and what we do. if we break down attention, we can see the fact that sustained attention on a task requires successful processing of visual and auditory input from the environment, potentially olfactory input (any distracting smell), and tactile input; we can’t let any of those distract us from what we’re attending to.

also, every time we process sensory information, especially more than one at a time, we are creating new neural pathways in the brain! this can potentially help us improve the cognitive processes mentioned above, as well as the speed of processing and the coordination of body movements. plus, the more we do it, the better we do!

multisensory activities for all ages

How can you incorporate more multi-sensory activities for your child? Let’s go over some ideas and break them down by age!

birth – 3 years

At birth, you’ll keep sensory experiences fairly simple. some visual stimulation with high-contrast books and slow visual tracking activities as baby’s eyes begin to work together (around 4 months). some vestibular information from walking with you, learning to roll, and riding in the car. great proprioceptive input during tummy time and tactile input from clothing, blankets, and snuggles. add some auditory information from classical music and nursery rhymes, as well as small amounts of olfactory information from diluted essential oils and being in nature.

Once a baby gets up and moves, crawls and then walks, they naturally receive a lot of vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual information, all at once, just by moving their body!

incorporate other sensory components by providing a variety of simple cause and effect toys, different textured blankets and surfaces to move around, a wide variety of foods with different smells and textures, and continue to provide simple listening activities with music .

preschool and primary age

This is where you can get really creative with your multi-sensory activities! Once your child is learning to throw and catch play balls, you can include that with movement activities – try throwing at a target while on a moving swing! Also, set up a simple obstacle course that your child can traverse on their scooter or trike (or try a strider bike): set up cones that they have to traverse (lots of vestibular, proprioceptive, and visual input!).

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Obstacle races are a great way to complete multi-sensory activities. include components for crawling and jumping, a sensory bin for great tactile and visual input, music or counting and alphabet practice for some auditory input, and don’t forget the olfactory and gustatory systems! try some scratch and sniff stickers; try stringing cheerios on a necklace; get creative and see how many sensory systems you can include simultaneously!

This is a great age to introduce your child to a metronome! you can download a free app or find a metronome beat on youtube. start by simply clapping your hands to the rhythm set at 60 beats per minute (bpm). Once your child has mastered that, they can try out different clapping and clapping patterns. be sure to include not only the arms but also the legs! These activities are perfect for incorporating vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, tactile and auditory pieces.

Once your child begins to read and write, you can use the metronome to practice spelling and writing. simply turn the metronome at 60 bpm and practice spelling the words to the beat. you can even try writing them on the beat. this rhythm can help improve that working memory we were talking about earlier!

It can also be beneficial to incorporate full body movements into metronome activities! try to drag yourself to the beat of 60 bpm. engage the visual system and play to the rhythm. the possibilities are endless!

adolescents and adults

Keep using the metronome as your child grows! Practice more complex spelling words, math problems, and even complete different movement sequences to the beat.

try changing the tempo to 120 bpm and do the task every two beats. put it all together: a spelling word and jumping jacks simultaneously. talk about some really cool multi-sensory processing!

We have great activities in our Multi-Sensory Processing Digital Course. check it out here!

Don’t forget to try these activities yourself! Adults can also benefit from multi-sensory activities and can be used as great brain/sensory breaks throughout the day to help wake up your body and mind.

check out our video showcasing our top 5 multi-sensory activities and why we love them

endnote

Once you start intentionally incorporating multi-sensory activities into your child’s day, not only will you see the benefits, but you’ll also get really good at it.

Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

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