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Montessori Senses

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The basic five senses that we were all taught are visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smelling), gustatory (tasting), and tactile (touching). Most of the Montessori sensorial activities revolve around these senses. Everything humans do involves using one or more senses. It is through the senses that infants discover the world. Without one’s senses, the brain would be a prisoner to the skull. Humans experience these sensations through interactions with the environment; interpreting the meaning of these sensations for actions is called sensory processing. When a child uses her senses to discover a new object, she creates a neuronal pathway in the brain. The more often she stimulates her senses from her environment, the more likely she is to create new neuronal pathways and strengthen old neuronal pathways in the brain. Sensory development begins during gestation and continues throughout childhood.

The vision and hearing senses are the first to be developed in children. To improve these senses the parents and guardians should ensure the child is exposed to different colors, shapes, and sounds. You can hang different vividly colored and shaped chimes over the child’s cradle that have a visual appeal and a soft rhythmic sound that will help develop the child’s vision and auditory senses.

Maria Montessori expanded upon the visual sense, by adding a subdivision for the chromatic sense. This is being able to distinguish between colors and their gradations. She developed several color boxes to practice color recognition and grading. The baric sense is used to distinguish between different weights. The baric tablets are pieces of wood of differing weights that children balance on their fingers to compare. The thermal sense is another offshoot of the tactile sense, where children use their skin to distinguish between hot and cold. Thermic bottles can be prepared by a teacher for matching by holding one in each hand. Thermic tablets are made of different materials, such as stone, glass, wood, cork, etc., and checked by holding one on each cheek. The stereognostic sense is also known as the tactile-muscular sense. It is used to enhance the connection between the visual and tactile senses. To truly understand the curve of a circle, or the angles of a polygon, the child must trace a three-dimensional form. This technique is used throughout many of the sensorial lessons, including identifying objects hidden within a bag, simply by touching them.

“The first of the child’s organs to begin functioning are his senses….instruments by which we lay hold impressions, and these, in the child’s case, have to become “incarnated”, made part of his personality.” The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 84

The development of the Stereognostic sense is an important part of the child’s work in the Sensorial area. Just as important as any of the other of senses, the stereognostic sense allows the child to discriminate size and shape through the use of touch. Dr. Montessori wrote “When the hand and arm are moved about an object, an impression of movement is added to that touch. Such an impression is attributed to a special, sixth sense, which is called a muscular sense, and which permits many impressions to be stored in a “muscular memory”, which recalls movements that have been made.” (The Discovery of the Child) The use of the stereognostic sense allows the child to have a mental picture through the use of touch and movement. Other activities that develop the use of the stereognostic sense include the mystery bag and stereognostic bag.

Sensory Disorders in Children
If a child overreacts to loud noises, avoids certain textures, appears overly uncoordinated, or simply seems to lack self-control. He or she may be experiencing some kind of sensory disorder. Of course, all children usually undergo a variety of sensory issues while exploring and interacting within their environments. However, if these concerns were to continue or escalate, the child’s ability to learn or function appropriately would be hindered. Sensory disorders have many causes and are incorporated within many other medical diagnoses. Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Delay are a few examples in which sensory challenges play a significant role. Gaining knowledge of the symptoms sensory issues present would be of great value. Early identification frequently leads to earlier diagnosis and proper treatment for the individual concerned.

Sensory disorders may influence one, some, or all of the physical senses. There are 7 categories encompassing our sensory functions. These groups are: Tactile (touch), Auditory (hearing), Visual (sight), Taste, Olfactory (smell), Vestibular (movement and gravity), and Proprioceptive (body awareness, muscles, and joints). Most people experiencing sensory disorders are either hypersensitive (over stimulated) or hypo sensitive (under stimulated). One defective sense influences several different bodily functions. If one or more senses are disturbed, the sensory messages sent to the brain are incorrect. These messages become disarranged, causing the individual afflicted to perceive their environment in a different way. Reality is misinterpreted, leading to faulty judgments and replies. Our physical senses are intended to assist us. Deficiencies in these areas encourage a variety of visible behavioral difficulties. Identifying these distinctions early allows the necessary actions to be implemented. Sensory issues may be altered with treatment. The capacity to understand the world would become less complicated for those affected. Realistic encounters within their environments would become more productive and less confusing. A 2009 research study suggests that 1 in every 6 children has sensory issues that impede their daily functioning, socialization and learning. It isn’t hard to see how these types of challenges could lead to a child feeling anxious and depressed.

Symptoms suggesting possible disorders

Tactile: Avoidance of touch, high pain tolerance, poor coordination, cleansing of hands and/or other body parts often, dislike of grooming (brushing teeth and/or hair, etc.), placing hands or fingers in mouth often, continuously in motion, walks heavily or on toes, avoids particular textures in food, clothes, or other substances, and dislikes wearing clothing, clothing tags, socks, and/or shoes.

Auditory: Over or under reacts to loud noises, tantrums easily or appears to ignore others, covers ears frequently, repeated humming or singing to self, evades large groups of people, listens to TV, radio, etc., at unreasonably elevated volumes, bothered by environmental commotion, impediment of speech, tearing and/or crumpling paper or other such items, and keen to sounds others disregard.

Visual: Views items (toys, books, etc.) close to face, positions objects in rows, repetitive opening and shutting of doors and/or drawers, continuously turning lights on and off, enthralled by shiny and/or reflective items (mirrors, glass, etc.), frequent rubbing and/or squinting of eyes, agitated with nearby movements in environment, aversions or exercising overdo caution when shifting between different types of floor coverings, and appears overly sensitive to light.

Taste: Gnaws on items (toys, clothes, etc.), places fingers and/or hands in mouth often, prefers food either bland or extremely tasty, prefers to eat only a few select foods (finicky eater), trouble brushing teeth: gags, chokes, etc., and rejects food items that appear to be altered in color or usual appearance.

Olfactory: Frequently complains of certain odors, avoids places that are aromatic (kitchen, bathroom, restaurants, zoos, etc.), does not like group settings, commonly sniffs food before and/or while eating, repeatedly smells everyday household items, gags and/or vomits when around specific odors, and smears feces and/ or loathes to be soiled.

Vestibular: Panics when upside down and/or tilted to one side, terrified of feet leaving the ground, becomes nervous around water, hills, and/or stairways, continuously in motion, affecting attention and communication, seems to move awkwardly, repeatedly jumps and/or spins (may appear calmer after such activities), and may not enjoy riding in vehicles (becomes ill from the movement).

Proprioceptive: Trouble with fine motor dexterity (grasping tiny objects, drawing, writing, coloring, pouring, etc.), poor coordination, prefers rough play, often breaking toys and other items,positions body in strange stances, gets pleasure from falling down, dangling by arms, and/or jumping, has trouble using silverware correctly: prefers hands, and has a tendency to support self by clinging to other people, furniture, and other secure items.

References:

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/brain-development-in-children.html

http://www.essortment.com/symptoms-sensory-disorders-children-57219.html

Sensory Development – Touch, Taste And Smell, Movement Sensations, Auditory System, Visual System, Sensory Systems In Concert – Body Position Sense – JRank Articles http://social.jrank.org/pages/563/Sensory-Development.html#ixzz2JnvPqNR1

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