Organizing the brain by the age of 7

Having given birth to a “sensory” child (though he would not be classified as so anymore), I was driven to learn as much as I could about sensory integration and children. I’ve discovered that if I hadn’t gone down the library page › grocery clerk › painter › nanny › receptionist › office assistant › musician › teacher › CEO › wife › mom › Kindermusik Educator › Director route, (Hey! I’ve been working since I was 14, and I didn’t even list everything. I could have included goat milker and chicken plucker…), I would have become a pediatric Occupational Therapist working with children who had sensory integration disorders.

I’ve learned so much that I wish I’d known when all my children were really small. I think it’s fascinating, and I think you might, too. So I’m going to write a series of blogs throughout this year that touch on how the senses are integrated from birth to age 7. For most children, this is a naturally occurring process.

I’ll start at age 7, (because I’ll stop at that age). Why? Because until a child is about 7 years of age, the brain’s primary function is to process sensory input. (Understanding what the input is, and what to do with it.) In other words, the brain spends its time organizing what it sees, hears, tastes, touches, smells, and feels though gravity and movement, and muscle and joint sensations. A child takes all that sensory input and is mostly concerned with moving his or her body in relation to that input.

You’ll notice that with preschoolers, they begin to work on social or academic skills, but their primary job remains this “sensorimotor processing”. In other words, they still need to move to learn, and learn to move!

All of these sensory experiences create neural pathways in the brain, and this process is mostly completed by age 7. Which is why at age 7, kids are really school-ready to learn successfully, but only if this sensory integration has gone well, and the brain is efficient at organizing the sensory input.

Did you know that by the age of 7, your brain and each side of your body became specialized? (If sensory integration had been successful, that is.) One example – A child should be right or left handed at this point. This indicates that both halves of the brain are communicating and working well together. If you are right-handed, your left hand will be better at interpreting tactile input, and vice versa. (I could give you two objects you can’t see, and your left hand should figure it out faster than your right.) In other words, the brain has now organized itself, and is now ready and eager to learn in an efficient manner.

Another end product of sensory integration is a child’s ability to organize. Instead of organizing her body in order to get it to move how she wants it to, she can organize letters and numbers. In addition, the ability to concentrate, self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-control all stem from good sensory integration. This child will have the capacity for abstract thought and reasoning, though anyone with a 7 year old will know that this has yet to actually develop!

Next time I’ll tell you how busy your mind and body were getting organized, even before you were born.

-posted by our friend, Miss Analiisa of Studio3Music in Seattle, whose primary form of getting organized (now well past the age of 7), consists of detailed list making.