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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.
  2. Protective – is a response to danger and can trigger a flight or fight response.

The two responses balance one another and allow participation in daily activities through adaptive responses.


Hypersensitive (over-sensitive) Touch being perceived as negative or threatening. Where the protective tactile pathway tends to override our discriminative pathway, which can lead to negative reactions

Potential signsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learning
Potential signsDislike of brushing of hair or teeth.Potential impactThe avoidance of messy play or being dirtyStrategies to assist with learningConsider ways of changing the task the child or young person need to do or environment they participate in. Remove labels from clothes. Allow CYP to choose their clothes from variety of fabrics. Allow variety of messy play activities to include wet and dry textures, consider options that do not require getting dirty, allow using tools for cooking and science activities.
Potential signsDifficulty with clothing labels or textures.Potential impactStrategies to assist with learningLabel free clothing or sewing soft fabrics over labels.
Allowing some flexibility around what to wear.
Potential signsDislike of physical touching especially light touch. Potential impactAvoidance of public placesStrategies to assist with learning
Potential signsDislike of crowds. Struggling to line-up or sit in assemblyPotential impactMay respond with physical aggression to light touchStrategies to assist with learningProprioceptive activities can help inhibit the protective pathway and aid in reducing sensitivity. Let child stand at back of line so they don’t have unexpected touch from behind them, allow CYP to sit in assembly where there will be no one behind them
Potential signsDislike of wearing art apronsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learningDifferent fabric of art apron
Potential signsDislike of wearing sports bibsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learningDifferent fabric of bib,


Hyposensitive The stimulation from the environment is not perceived by the CYP, they can either not notice it or seek for extensive stimulation.

Potential signsPotential impactStrategies to assist with learning
Potential signsLack of reaction to painful experiencesPotential impactDifficulty developing fine motor skills, self-help skills and play.
Cannot remember how they got a bruise, do not move away from very hot object, instinctive responses appear slower.
Strategies to assist with learningVerbalise the risks and the presence of danger to support with cognitive cues to the reduced sensory cues.
Potential signsDifficulty manipulating tools and toysPotential impactStrategies to assist with learningPractice activities that require grading force: Shoot hoops to target at different distance, practice lift disposable cup filled with water and not squeeze it.
Potential signsDifficulty to grade force when using tools or touching others.Potential impactStrategies to assist with learningPractice self-help skills and verbalise the steps to dressing independently or brushing teeth.
Potential signsCraving touch – touching others inappropriately.Potential impactDifficulties to create friendships due to excessive physical contact. Strategies to assist with learningProvide options to touch objects – squeeze balls, soft area with bean bags to roll in, big teddies to hug.

For both, it will be helpful to use proprioceptive strategies to improve tactile discrimination.

Last reviewed: November 29, 2023 by Helly

Next review due: May 29, 2024

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