Part of
Sensory Processing Handbook

The eight senses - guidance for practitioners in Somerset

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Part of
Sensory Processing Handbook

The eight senses - guidance for practitioners in Somerset



information on the nature of sensory processing differences and the impact they can have on children and young people's lives

Somerset SEND CharterWhat is sensory processing?Sensory processing differences or difficultiesInteroception – the eighth senseChecklists and assessments

The sensory system

Safe interventions for both children and young people, and groups


School approaches

Recommendations for creating appropriate learning environments for pupils with sensory processing differences

Whole school approachClassroom strategiesWhat to do if you are concerned a pupil is experiencing sensory processing difficultiesReferring to occupational therapy

Our tactile system

Our tactile system is developed through touch as a primary method of communication and to establish social bonds. Through tactile responses, a child learns about feeding, dressing, language, movement, perception, basic concepts and handwriting. When skin is touched there are two types of responses:

  1. Discriminative – tells you where and what is being touched. The information is sent to the cerebral cortex and associated with vibration, pressure, proprioception and adaptive behaviour.
  2. Protective – is a response to danger and can trigger a flight or fight response. Our protective response is associated with pain, temperature and touch.


Hypersensitive (over-sensitive) where the protective tactile pathway tends to override our discriminative pathway, which can lead to negative reactions

Potential signsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learning
Dislike of certain foods, brushing of hair or teeth.The avoidance of messy play or being dirtyConsider ways of changing the task or environment, such as different fabric on art apron or sports bib, let the child stand at the back of the line so they’d don’t have unexpected touch from behind them.
Difficulty with clothing labels or textures. For example struggling to wear art aprons or sports bibs.Label free clothing or sewing soft fabrics over labels.
Allowing some flexibility around what to wear.
Trying different washing powers, such as eco brands.
Dislike of physical touching especially light touch. For example struggling to line up or sit in assembly.A dislike of crowdsThe exploration of different textures; water play, finger painting, science and cooking activities and handling pets. This will need to be carried out in a careful graduated response due to the negative feelings associated with touch and should always be carried out on the child’s or young person’s terms.
Touch being perceived as negative or threateningMay respond with physical aggression to light touchProprioceptive activities can help inhibit the protective pathway and aid in reducing sensitivity.



Potential signsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learning
Lack of reaction to painful experiencesDifficulty developing fine motor skills, self-help skills and playThe messy and explorative play strategies above can be appropriate
Difficulty manipulating tools and toysChildren or young people may also struggle with grading pressure and can be over forceful at times or appear to have weak muscles. They may get tired more quickly during writing tasksIn addition, using vibration equipment and proprioceptive strategies can assist in improving tactile discrimination
Feely boards can be useful

Last reviewed: April 26, 2023 by Jenny

Next review due: October 26, 2023

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