top of page
Kids Swinging

8 Sensory Systems

The Foundation

These four sensations are the foundation of child development laying the path for the advancement of ocular, postural, bilateral integration, praxis, and sensory modulation skills. These systems start to develop before birth and continue to mature and integrate as one interacts with the environment. These systems allow us to feel safe and secure in our bodies internally, in order to take in sensations of the external world. 


Provides us information about what we feel through out skin including size, shape, and texture of objects. The tactile system has two parts: the protective system— causes a fight, flight, or freeze response when we perceive a tactile stimulus as a threat and alerts us to danger and the discrimination system— tells us what we are feeling and where we are feeling it.







Provides information about where our body is in relation to itself and within space: body awareness. Proprioception allows us the ability to move without visually monitoring every movement. It is responsible for grading force to performing movements efficiently, like throwing a ball, shutting a door, and using tools. It works with other systems to allow efficient postural control and allow us to automatically adjust our body’s position when needed.  


Provides us information about the body’s relation to gravity, balance, and movement through an apparatus located in the inner ear. It tells us whether we are upside down or upside up, how quickly we are moving, and in what direction we are moving. It keeps us upright and protects us from hitting our head on the floor. It works with other systems to allow us to have efficient postural control and understanding our relationship to our environment. 


Provides us information about the sensations we feel inside our bodies. Interoception includes hunger, thirst, pain, temperature, heartbeat, bladder pressure, and breathlessness. It also is linked with emotional awareness and processing. 

The Functional Four

These systems allow us to take in the external signals of our environment. The ability to process and respond appropriately to these sensations are often impacted if the foundational systems are not working efficiently.


Provides us information of what we see. It includes recognizing shapes, colors, letters, words, etc. Vision also helps us move safely within our environment including guiding our movements and assisting with balance.


Provides us information of what we hear including the quality and direction of the sounds.








Provides us information of what we smell such as food and dangerous, unpleasant smalls.








Provides us information of what we taste in our mouths including the characteristics of food such as salty, spicy, bitter or sweet.  

Reference: (2016). Eight sen [Class Handout]. STAR Institute, Centennial, Colorado.

bottom of page