Boy looking at bubble tube

What is sensory input?

And why is it so important…?

We all learnt about the five senses at school:

  • Visual system (sight) – we receive sensory messages through our eyes, such as colour, shape, amount of light and motion.

  • Auditory system (hearing) – sounds such as music, language, background noise are all transmitted as soundwaves into our ears.

  • Olfactory system (smell) – Our nose contains the olfactory bulb which transmits information to the brain about any odours we encounter, such as food, flowers, smoke.

  • Tactile system (touch) – the skin all over our body contains touch receptors that transmit information to our brain. The receptors alert our brain when there is a change in temperature, feeling of pain, or any contact with the environment, from a gentle breeze on the skin to hard pressure on the body.

  • Gustatory system (taste) – the taste of food that we eat (sweet, salty, spicy) is transmitted via the tongue and is there to help us discriminate between safe and harmful foods.

These five senses continually provide messages to our brains – this is happening within all of us, all of the time. However, there are two other types of sensory processing systems that you may not be familiar with:

Proprioceptive system – this involves being aware of the position and movement of your body within the surroundings. For example, recognising when you have walked from a hard surface such as concrete to a soft surface such as grass, without looking down, or being able to raise a spoon full of food to your mouth to eat without having to look at your hand while doing so. If this system does not function correctly, you may see traits in the person such as:

  • Tires easily
  • Uses too much force and breaking things
  • Uncoordinated movements, kicking a ball too hard or too soft
  • Poor hand and eye coordination


Vestibular system – this system is located within the inner ear and is related to balance and spatial orientation of the head. It help keeps us upright and control our movements.

If this system does not function correctly, you may see traits in the person such as:

  • Loses balance easily
  • Has trouble staying focussed (ie in class)
  • Poor eye movement, eg ball tracking, reading
  • Bumps into things and falls over objects regularly

Vestibular Balance

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