Most people are familiar with the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. These are the far senses. Less familiar are the near senses: tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular. Author and educator Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A., defines sensory processing as the methods by which the brain perceives and organises the information it receives from our bodies through our far and near senses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the occurrence of autism spectrum disorders has grown to an average of 1 in 110 children.
The Autism Society of America (ASA) defines autism as a disorder affecting each child uniquely, but primarily affecting communication/language abilities, social skills, patterns of behaviour and sensory processing.
The vestibular sense enables the brain to process the body's movement, balance and gravity. This sense is often compromised in individuals with autism.
According to Kranowitz, vestibular challenges may express themselves in multiple ways: either intolerance to or cravings for movement, problems with balance, poor muscle tone and language or visual processing difficulties.
The vestibular sense is our most primal sense, says Kranowitz, and while parents can offer vestibular stimulation activities such as spinning, rocking and jumping, she also urges them to proceed slowly and to seek help from an occupational therapist trained in sensory integration.