How a chiropractor could help your child’s sensory perception


As mums, many of you would have heard the terms ‘sensory processing’ or perhaps ‘sensory rich environment’, says chiropractor Dr Mel. But did you know a chiropractor can enhance sensory perception in a child?

Kids develop, learn and flourish through stimulation from their environment. Everything they are exposed to in the first few years of life will shape how their brain develops and the connections that their brain cells make with one another. Of course the very first environment that a baby is exposed to is in-utero. This is why optimal nutrition and minimal toxic load is encouraged throughout pregnancy.

Our five senses

These five senses allow us to perceive the information that comes in from the environment (data) before the brain figures out what to do with it.

Sight: perception of all the lights and colours of the world.

Hearing: perception all the various frequency of sound waves.

Touch: the feel of our environment and surroundings.

Smell: perception of the various aromas of our world.

Taste: perception of flavours and the development of our palate.

… But there is a sixth sense, too!

There’s also a sixth sense that most people don’t know too much about. This is called our proprioceptive sense. Proprioception is the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion and equilibrium.

Proprioception, simply put, is an individual’s ability to perceive their joint position and their body position. In order to be able to move accurately we need a good sense of proprioception. This sense is not developed in babies or toddlers, which explains a child’s unsteadiness when initially learn to sit, reach, crawl and walk. This sense is very important for movement, locomotion and our motor coordination.

Sensory processing

The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation defines sensory processing (also known as sensory integration) as ‘the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioural responses’. In short, the brain (the nervous system) constantly perceives myriad neurological and sensory information. The nervous system not only perceives but also interprets this ‘data’ and turns it into something meaningful.

Sensory processing can impact attention, learning and behaviour. A child’s ability to process sensory data is very important for how attentive they are, how well they learn and how well they can express themselves. A child that becomes overwhelmed quickly (hypersentive) tends to shy away from things/people, can display anxious behaviour and may display hesitation in participation. A hyposensitive child will have low registration of their sensory environment and will, therefore, seek a higher intensity of stimulation. A really great example of this is the child who is worried about going down the slippery dip at the playground (the sensory defensive child) versus the child who races down the slippery dip, then catapults off the slide halfway down into the sandpit with no fear (the sensory seeking child).

Being overwhelmed or underwhelmed by our environment can mean that paying attention and learning is difficult because there is either too much going on to make sense of it all, or simply the sensory data is not registered. These children display avoidance and seeking behaviours respectively.

How a chiropractor can help

I’m sure by this point, some of you are wondering how and why chiropractic has anything to do with sensory processing?

Let’s go back to that sixth sense (proprioception). A child’s ability to recognise where and what their body is doing is integral for learning many skills. For example, sitting, crawling, reaching, walking, talking, running, chewing, writing, reading, riding, catching, throwing … the list goes on and on – all of these tasks I have mentioned require coordinated and accurate muscle activation. Whether we are referring to the muscles of the spine, limbs, face, mouth, fingers, eyes etc irrespective, all these muscles have to work in a coordinated and accurate way to achieve skills.

Chiropractors use various adjustment techniques and tools to stimulate proprioception by activating and aligning the muscles of the spine and cranium.

I have a particular passion for treating kids and, as such, the techniques I use are low force, gentle techniques appropriate for children. I use chiropractic adjustments to provide their bodies with a proprioceptive sensory-rich experience. This can help children who are sensory defensive by giving their body a dose of proprioceptive and vestibular input that they would otherwise probably avoid gaining from their environment. And for the hypo-sensitve sensory seeking children, a dose of proprioceptive input can be achieved without the need for jumping off the lounge 200 times!

For more information on chiropractic care for children, please contact Dr Mel at Neurohealth Chiropractic Centre in Lane Cove on 0421 551 257 or visit

More on child health…


You may also like ...

Leave a Reply

What are you searching for?
Generic filters