Why Sensory Discrimination is Important

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As discussed in one of our previous articles, each of us have 7 senses that we use daily. While that article focused more on modulation, we would like to explain to you about Sensory Discrimination. 

Sensory discrimination is the process which enables a child to learn about specific characteristics of sensory information. That sounds pretty straightforward right? Well, not quite. We actually use sensory discrimination with each of our 7 senses! Crazy, I know!

We use our discrimination process or distinguish between, sizes, shapes, textures, directions of noise, body position as well as movement of our body in space. Let’s look at each senses’ discrimination in a bit more detail.

The Tactile System:

The tactile system can be defined as the sense of touch on the skin, while tactile discrimination can be described as interpreting tactile stimuli in an efficient and precise manner, i.e., being able to find your wallet in your handbag without looking. Why is intact tactile discrimination important for my child? If a child’s tactile discrimination is not adequate, they will have trouble with fine-motor activities, especially drawing and writing. They might also struggle while working with small objects, like beads, and might appear clumsy with their hands.

The Proprioceptive System:

Proprioception is our internal sense of body position and movement, while proprioceptive discrimination can be described as the calibration of movement in space and time. Therefore, if a child struggles with proprioceptive discrimination, they will often press too hard or too soft with their pencils while writing, break toys by accident, bump into other children and accidentally hurt them or not be able to judge personal space. 

The Vestibular System:

Our vestibular system is responsible for registration and modulation of movement, while vestibular discrimination is the child’s ability to differentiate when, how and in what direction their head is moving. When a child struggles with vestibular discrimination, they might have poor balance and equilibrium reactions, poor protective extension as well as poor eye movements, which influences their reading and writing abilities.

The Visual System:

Visual discrimination is the child’s ability to differentiate between pictures or objects with different characteristics as well as judge the space they are in, i.e., depth perception. If a child has poor visual discrimination, they will struggle with perceptual skills, especially position in space. The child will therefore struggle to discriminate between letters and numbers that look the same, as well as determining distance between themselves and other objects, also known as depth-perception. 

The Auditory System:

The auditory system is largely responsible for the development of speech and language. Auditory discrimination is the child’s ability to distinguish between what information is important to listen to and what is background noise. Often times, children with auditory discrimination difficulties will be mislabelled as “naughty” or having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), due to the misconception that they are ignoring what is said to them. When in reality, it is just difficult for them to discriminate between what is being said to them and what is background noise. These children often talk too loud or too soft, experience confusion when listening to instructions and appear to ignore others.

In the following few articles, we will be addressing how to improve your child’s discrimination. We hope you will let us know if your little ones loved our activities!!

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