What is Sensory Processing?

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

The human body is a complex system that works overtime to make sure we can function and complete our day to day tasks efficiently. Our sensory system is one aspect of our body that helps us to do that. Kids Sense (2020) describes sensory processing as “effective registration (and accurate interpretation) of sensory input in the environment (including one’s body). It is the way the brain receives, organises and responds to sensory input in order to behave in a meaningful & consistent manner.” In other words, when we accidentally touch a hot stove (let’s be honest, we’ve all been there) our brain tells our hand to move away - quickly! If we hear the doorbell ring, our brain tells us to go have a look at who is there. When we see an obstacle in our path we innately walk around it. These are just a few examples of how the sensory system helps our body to react to certain situations appropriately.

Traditionally it is said that there are 5 senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. In fact, there are two additional senses which are equally important and they are our proprioceptive sense (knowing where our bodies are in space), and vestibular sense (movement and balance). All our senses work in unison to ensure that we can regulate our behaviour, attention, regulation and emotional responses.

Have you ever noticed your child/children:

-Have difficulty paying attention

-Become overwhelmed in social situations

-Seems to over react to small things such as certain sounds, textures and smells

-Has A LOT of energy or acts lethargic

-Displays anxious tendencies

-Avoids new/unfamiliar situations

'The Kids Sense' outlines a few more aspects which could potentially be “red flags” to indicate something is happening for your child (link is below). If you are answering “yes” to some of these observations, there is no need to stress or be alarmed. If you find that there a significant disruptions to your child’s life as a result of their sensitivities, then it may be worth seeking out further advice/assistance.

Occupational therapists aim to help people engage in their daily tasks with minimum disruption. We work WITH the person and their family to ensure that they can live a meaningful and fulfilling life. As a Parent Like You reader you'll be cognisant of using your values as a guide to parenting. Your values can also guide therapy interventions.

I hope this article has provided education around what sensory processing is, some signs to look out for, and encourage you to seek help if you feel the need. It is important to surround yourself with a community to help provide support and guidance. Parenting is certainly not easy. As the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child”.

If you would like more information, feel free to contact me and we can have a chat. Be sure to follow @the_ot_guru on Instagram and Facebook for sensory education and toddler activity ideas for your little ones!

Carla Zietsman - The OT Guru x



Carla Zietsman, otherwise known as The OT Guru, is a qualified occupational therapist with a keen interest in working with children.

When it comes to sensory processing, she is the “go to” expert. She prides herself in helping families overcome barriers and guiding children to reach their full potential.

Find out more at: