POOR PERCEPTIONS When a person's sensory awareness goes awry

When a person's sensory awareness goes awry

Abnormal brain sensory perceptions

The amount of sensory data reaching our brains can surpass the ability of our brain to manage the information all at once.

We filter unnecessary data, or else we will have to take in account everything that comes into our brain and provide a reaction to it.

If a student is studying and concentrating on what the teacher is saying, he will filter out unwanted information, such as the sound of the wind blowing outside. If not, his study will be impaired.

Dr A Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist, helped develop a theory of occupational therapy in the 1960s at the Institute for Brain Research, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Dr Ayres argued that the body learns to manage sensory perceptions to produce appropriate reactions efficiently.

The first seven years of life are crucial for development of the ability to use muscle groups, body movement, language, emotions, ability to learn and social skills.

Our sensory system comprises visual senses, those relating to touch, hearing, taste, and smell; sensations felt by tendons and muscle joints; and balance.

1. The sense of touch is the ability to feel all sensations of the body such as pain, heat, cold or pressure.
    A sensory impulse is sent to the brain to evaluate the reaction which leads to learning and interaction
    between individuals, the ability to understand one's self, and the ability to trust others.

2. The tendon and muscle joint systems allow people to judge the direction and speed of how the arms
    and legs move. This system helps deliver the necessary energy for particular activities such as
    applying the right amount of pressure to a pencil while writing, and maintaining body balance while

3. Our sense of spatial orientation allows the head to move away from the central line of the body without
    us falling while we move.

The three systems are related to the development and learning stages that will enable us to feel our limbs, plan how to move, and the ability to learn.

Some people, however, have problems performing these functions.

People with abnormal vestibular functions (an abnormality of the sensory system that contributes to our balance which provides significant input about movement and equilibrioception) tend to be afraid of activity on an uneven surface or shaking movements above the ground.

This results in haphazard motions or movements that are regarded as under-developed for a certain age group; and an inability to climb or negotiate a flight of stairs.

Other individuals will show symptoms such as moving around in circles or the inability to stay still.

Occupational therapists recommend parents look for the following symptoms of abnormal vestibular functions in their children:

1. Moving constantly such as running instead of walking. Performing activities without any goal, poor concentration, inability to stay still or concentrate on a single activity.

2. Children with abnormal vestibular functions are easily irritated and are overly responsive to sensory perceptions. They are impatient, object to body contact or being physically close to another person, dislike loud noise and are scared of heights.

3. Problems in communication such as slow speech or the inability to speak clearly.

4. Weakness, becoming easily tired or requiring a great effort to maintain body balance or maintaining head balance, such as frequently using the hand to prop up the chin or head, tripping and falling frequently, losing control of a pencil or pen while writing and falling out of a chair while sitting.

5. Slow development of the ability to play compared to other children of the same age group.

6. Problems in the classroom especially reading, applying too much or not enough pressure while using writing implements.

7. Such children will often avoid activities that require movement, such as dancing, sports or moving to the rhythm of music.

They will also have problems turning left or right, moving in the wrong direction, remembering telephone numbers or giving the right change in financial transactions.

The proper treatment of abnormal vestibular functions starts with diagnosis of the affected areas.

The next step is to create activities that cater to the development of the brain area involved in the affected areas. The emphasis is on the child performing the activity himself as much as possible.

Observe the child's response and reaction before adjusting activities to stimulate the brain's ability to give the proper response.

BangkokPost, myfamily June 3-9, 2010   
By Santi Jantawan is an Occupational Therapist at Manarom Hospital