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Year One – Post 17 | Sensory Information and Baby

Can you imagine what a baby must think when they enter this world?  Here they were in this dark, warm, comfy, quiet and predictable place in mommy’s tummy and then they are suddenly thrown into the wild world with no control of their own.  Lights, camera, action – that is not just the director’s call for the magical movie, but what baby went through in the birthing process.

Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and feeling are the ways he gains information from his environment to make sense out of this crazy place.  It continues for the rest of our lives but it is most sensitive when he is a baby or child.  While adults learn to tune out certain senses at times, your baby doesn’t have a choice.  However, sometimes babies develop sensory integration problems, and surprisingly, you may be the last to know.

What is sensory integration?  Sensory integration is the way the brain processes and relates sensory input from multiple sensory modalities, including the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, as well as balance, movement and the sense of one’s position in space. Through sensory integration, the brain can combine and make meaning of all sensory input in order to interact appropriately with the environment.

So let’s say your baby has difficulty with the sense of touch.  Maybe the tags on his clothes bother him or he may be very sensitive to heat or cold.  What if he doesn’t like food with certain types of textures or tastes?  How would you know?  Fussiness, crying and spitting out food would give you a clue, but unless you know what to look for, you can miss these subtle difficulties.  It is important for you to know normal development and the appropriate activities that stimulate learning for your child. It will take a thorough history and some time to note the same behaviors and reactions that your child has to certain sensory information.  Maybe your child is happy only in his diaper, maybe he wants less covers and maybe it will take him time to get use to the textures of food.

I have met many frustrated parents that knew something wasn’t right but they didn’t know where to go to get help.  A sensory integration problem is usually diagnosed by an occupational therapist.  Many times, pediatricians or other health care workers don’t have the time or insight to solve your child’s sensory problems. Write down what you observe that seems unusual to you, but of course, you will need to know what is “usual.”  The checklists in My Baby Compass, Birth to Two will help you identify developmental milestones and identify potential sensory integration problems in your baby.

–          Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series

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