Our latest blog posts, written by the Wilson Centre experts on various topics surrounding child development.
Have you ever made a connection between your child’s sense of touch and their school performance? Or made a link between a child’s awareness of their muscles and their ability to count? Probably not.
There are three sensory systems that are crucial in a child’s development and directly link to their academic performance. Some children who have a gifted IQ still struggle in school because these senses are not properly developed before the age of 6. These systems are the vestibular system, proprioceptive system and the tactile system (touch).
We were all taught about our five senses in school; touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell. But there are two important ‘forgotten senses’ which contribute to the healthy development of a child.
‘Vestibular’ is a Latin word for the corridor in our inner ear which detects how we as humans move on Earth against gravity. It controls the tension of the muscles in every part of our body from the small muscles in the mouth and eyes to the large muscles in the arms and legs. In simple terms, the vestibular system is how our muscles work together to keep us upright and balanced. The proprioception system works alongside the vestibular system in order to feedback to the brain where the muscles are.
‘Proprioception’ is a Greek word for perception of proprious; proprious meaning perception of body. Proprioceptors are neuro receptors found in our muscles tendons and joints which provide the brain with a sensory map of the body. So that even with our eyes closed we know where our arms and legs are and how to move them without vision. To test this sense, close your eyes and hold your two index fingers out, now touch them together without opening your eyes. It is most likely your fingers touched, this is due to the proprioceptive system feeding back to brain the position of your body.
Another important factor in a child’s ability to learn academically is their sense of touch. Or tactile system as it is known. The skin is the largest sensory organ of the body. Every part of our skin provides information to the brain. A well-developed sense of touch leads to increased visual perception development.
But how do these systems relate to your child’s learning?
The vestibular system is the awareness of our muscles therefore it directly affects a child’s spatial awareness. Spatial awareness skills are related to a child’s ability to plan and how they understand quantity in maths.
Speaking and writing
The proprioception system relates to movement and as speech is a result of the planning of muscles in the mouth. And if a child can plan their movements verbally and create sounds they will then be able to transfer them on to a page. A well-developed proprioceptive system also leads to improved concentration and attention.
A strong tactile system enables them to apply the correct pressure to hold a pen or pencil and create words on a page.
The vestibular system aids the coordination of both sides of the body and brain therefore helps with reading and the concentration required to read.
A child’s fingers help their eyes to understand what they are seeing, meaning their sense of touch affects their ability to read.
When it comes to learning in a classroom setting the mature development of these three senses are far more important than having a high IQ. Of course we all want our children to excel in school but encouraging them to read and write before these senses are fully developed is pointless. Instead maturing your child’s sensory systems through play will ensure their academic success. How do I do this? Organised play. Playing with your children is how they develop their sensory systems, here are some ideas which we use in our therapies to mature a child’s sensory motor systems:
Every child has sensory motor milestones that should be reached before they are ready for formal academic learning. How do I know my child is reaching their sensory milestones? By the age of four they should be able to stand on one leg for 10 seconds, draw basic shapes and hop on one leg. If you are interested in a 15-minute complimentary screening for your child, contact us.