Develop your sensory lexiconary to improve your ability to support the children in your care by Joanna Grace

16th May 2017

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Developing your own sensory lexiconary, i.e. increasing the range of experiences you offer in a developmentally informed way, and how you offer them, can increase your ability to reach and support your youngest learners and those who find the sensory world very difficult.

On the develop your sensory lexiconary courses I take delegates through the development of seven sensory systems looking at what makes for an engaging experience at each stage of development. If you support learners who are still developing their sensory abilities, or learners who need to practice those abilities a little before they are fully functional, then knowing what will appeal at each stage of development is a wonderful tool to have in your belt.

If you are thinking “Seven sensory systems?” then you might like to take a peak at my last blog post How many senses?

But what does it mean when I talk about engaging experiences at each stage of development?

We tend to think of senses as either being there or not being there. Either a person has eyes that work and has them open and can see, or their eyes don’t work, or their eyes are shut and they can’t see. But it is not so cut and dry, in fact as well as the development of the senses there are a lot of other factors to consider which I cannot go into here suffice to say the brain is a very important organ when it comes to successfully sensing, you can have a perfect pair of eyes but if your brain is not working right you will not be able to see.

For now we are going to focus on the development of the senses. We can think of this as being like a curriculum. You want to offer the children in your care the content of that curriculum that is relevant to their development. If you were teaching a child maths you would not present them with all the maths you know in the world as a starting point. You would begin with experiences of one and many, and move on to counting, and then to addition and subtraction, and then multiplication and division, and so on, until you reach complex algebra and beyond. For some children being presented with the entire multi sensory world is like being faced with all the maths on the board, they need targeted experiences focused on where they are in their development in order to be able to progress to making sense of it all.

We are none of us born with senses that just work instantly; we learn how to use them through our experience of the world. Most people will tune in their senses through their day to day exploration of the world, but there are many reasons why this might not happen and why a child may end up in your care who is still developing their sensory skills. For example: a child with a physical disability will struggle to access the same number of experiences as a physically able child; a child who has lacked a rich range of experiences at home might not be so far along in their development; similarly children who have conditions that limit their ability to access experience or that have motivated them to avoid experience may also still be in the process of developing their sensory skills. Whatever the reason may be you will almost certainly meet a child who requires a sensory curriculum.

Finding out what experiences are easiest for our senses to respond to in the early stages of development will enable you to create a sensory curriculum for those children and support them in progressing through that curriculum.

If you would like to find out more about what is likely to engage a child in early sensory development book onto a Develop your sensory lexiconary course or read Sensory-being for Sensory Beings (due for publication by Routledge on the 6th of September).

For more information about The Sensory Projects please visit Joanna’s website.

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