Sensory processing refers to how the brain registers, interprets and uses information from the sensory systems. The sensory systems include sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell, body awareness and balance.
Brain research has shown us that Touch input stimulates the release of nerve growth factor, which acts as a fertilizer for developing neurons in the brain. Soothing, comforting touch or “pressure touch”, helps to develop “relaxed brain chemistry” so that we can focus. Light touch is alerting and tends to cause a “fight/fright/flight” reaction in some individuals.
Heavy work (such as exercise) or activities that stimulate the proprioceptive system (body awareness) impact on serotonin levels in our brain. Serotonin helps to regulate our level of arousal/alertness it is often called the “master modulator”) and gives us a feeling that “all it well with the world”. Serotonin also helps regulate the levels of other brain chemicals such as dopamine and norepinephrine which are also important for memory, concentration, and for motivating us. John J. Ratey, M.D., associate professor at Harvard and author, says “exercise is like taking a little Prozac or a little Ritalin at the right moment.”
Montessori once said, “First the education of the senses, then the education of the intellect.” The aim of sensory education is the refinement of our perceptions (senses) through repetition.
‘The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality“
(Maria Montessori – The Absorbent Mind: 206).