sensory systems green figure imagesensory systems subheading image


The sensory systems will be discussed in the order of importance for the consumer* base that this web site is directed
towards: adult consumer with substantial disabilities: severe physical disabilities and cognitive limitations. Some have
cerebral palsy with contractures from years of spasticity, visual limitations, many are G-tube fed, most are non-
verbal, some have a visual loss and some have a secondary diagnosis of mental illness.

Autonomic Nervous System image

Autonomic Sensory System: These are the sensations that we have no external control of. They happen within our body and can influence how we experience the external sensations. Our temperature mechanisms, our gastro-intestinal functioning, skin conditions, etc. can interfere with our ability to enjoy the other sensations and also cause unusual behavioral responses. Because many of our clients are non-verbal they are not able to tell us what they are feeling. Hence the challenging detective work that is required.

Tactile System image

Tactile: The sense of touch. This is the sensation related to the skin. It is one of the most important sensory systems in that human beings need this to help them connect with the world.

Olfactory System image

Olfactory: The sense of smell. The olfactory stimuli goes directly to the brain and can influence autonomic responses very quickly. An obnoxious smell can trigger vomiting and rhythmic breathing. It is also related to the sense of taste.

Auditory System image

Auditory: The sense of hearing. The range is great and can be soft soothing music, nature sounds, a room with loud chaotic noise to machinery and traffic noise. A client's behavior often can be reflected in how they perceive the sounds which they hear. Clients that have a loss of hearing can still perceive sound within vibrations.

Visual System image

Visual: This is the sensory system that determines how we see our environment. If this sensory system is impaired,
the client often has enhanced sensory systems to compensate such as touch and hearing.

Movement System image

Proprioception: This is the sense of the joints and muscles working together. It also covers the deep pressure

Vestibular: The sense of balance and the basis is how our head moves in space. For the severely disabled, they often
have not had many opportunities to initiate balance/vestibular opportunities and most of their experiences are
provided by others by placing them in situations where they can have this experience such as rocking and swinging.
The vestibular sense is important in that it influences the sense of vision and hearing.

Gustaroy System image

Gustatory: This is the sense of taste. It is related to the sense of smell/olfactory. As a person ages, the sense of
taste sometimes diminishes and can influence food intake and food choices. If a client is not able to eat by mouth
this sensation is underutilized.

* Consumer is used by the California Department of Developmental Services to define a client that has developmental
disabilities and is a utilizer of services.