Definitions of Sensory Terms


The ability to understand directions ( up/down, front/back, left/right ) as they related to function.


Graphia (writing ) is the ability to perform tasks associated with letter formation. Often used as a synonym with writing.


Difficulty in planning, sequencing, and carrying out unfamiliar actions in a skillful manner. Poor motor planning is the result of dyspraxia.

Hypersensitivity or Hyposensitivity

The overly responsivity or under-responsivity to sensory information or input through the mouth ( oral ), nose ( olfactory ), eyes ( visual ), skin ( tactile ), balance ( vestibular ), movement ( propioception ). Hypersensitivity results in tendency to be fearful and cautious or negative and defiant. Hyposensitvity results in the tendency to crave intense sensations or to withdraw and be difficult to engage.

Letter formation

The ability to make a letter on a page using eye-hand coordination, correct posture, directionality, and visual motor memory.

Low tone/low endurance

The lack of supportive muscle tone, usually with increased mobility at the joints; the person with low tone has limbs that are floppy, appear to not be attached to the body, and have awkward movement patterns. This lack of muscle tone results in poor ability to act in a sustained state of alert performance.


The ability for the nervous system to filter out or let in various forms of sensory information.

Motor In-coordination

The ability to understand the rules and concepts for social interaction to include understanding pragmatic speech, social rules of etiquette, proximity, objectics, gestures, inferences, abstractions, idioms, etc.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational Therapy (OT) is the use of assessment and treatment to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder. Occupational therapists also focus much of their work on identifying and eliminating environmental barriers to independence and participation in daily activities.

* Taken from Wikipedia

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy or physiotherapy (PT) is a health care profession that remediates impairments and promotes mobility, function, and quality of life through examination, diagnosis, and physical intervention (therapy using mechanical force and movement). It is carried out by physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. In addition to clinical practice, other activities encompassed in the physical therapy profession include research, education, consultation, and administration. In many settings, physical therapy services may be provided alongside, or in conjunction with, other medical or rehabilitation services, including occupational therapy.

* Taken from Wikipedia


Is the ability to interact successfully with the physical environment; to plan, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions; and to do what one intends, wants, and needs to do in an efficient, satisfying manner. It is a broad term which actually includes:

  • Ideation: the thought, planning an idea in the mind, and ability to visualize the activity.
  • Motor Planning: making a plan of action.
  • Execution: actually doing the activity or “executing” the action.


The unconscious awareness of sensations coming from one’s joints, muscles tendons, and ligaments; the “self sense “. Receptor sites are in the joints and the muscles. This sense underlies one’s ability to place body parts in position in space and to grade movements ( i.e. the ability to judge direction of force and pressure.

Sensory Integration

A neurological approach to enhancing occupational performance through supporting a more normalized response to sensory input – Registration: the ability for the body to register that sensation has occurred.

Social Cognition

The ability to understand the rules and concepts for social interaction to include understanding pragmatic speech, social rules of etiquette, proximity, objectics, gestures, inferences, abstractions, idioms, etc.


From sensory integrative perspective, learning occurs when a person receives accurate sensory information, process it, and uses it to organize behaviors. When children receive inaccurate or unreliable sensory input, then their ability to process the information and create responses is disrupted. Poor sensory processing can take form of over-responsivity such as becoming agitated when someone brushes against you or under-responsivity such as needing to be tapped on the shoulder several times to gain attention.

Somatosensory refers to ” sensations arising from body ” and includes tactile ( touch ) and proprioceptive input. Proprioceptive input refers to information from our muscles and joints and provides feedback to allow us to know where our body is, where it is moving, and how much force is being used.

Speech-language pathology

Speech-language pathology is a field of expertise practiced by a clinician known as a Speech-language pathologist (SLP), also called speech and language therapist, or speech therapist, who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of communication disorders and swallowing disorders.

The components of speech production include: phonation, producing sound; resonance; fluency; intonation, variance of pitch; and voice, including aeromechanical components of respiration. The components of language include: phonology, manipulating sound according to the rules of a language; morphology, understanding and using minimal units of meaning; syntax, constructing sentences by using languages’ grammar rules; semantics, interpreting signs or symbols of communication to construct meaning; and pragmatics, social aspects of communication.

Swallowing disorders includes oropharyngeal and functional dysphagia in adults and children and feeding disorders in children and infants.

* Taken from Wikipedia


Information taken into the body through the sense of touch  ( skin ).  Can be through the deep pressure receptors ( activates discriminative system ) or light pressure receptors ( activates the protective system ).


The sensory system that responds to changes in head and body movement through space, and that coordinates movements of eyes, head, and body. receptor site is in the inner ear. Intimately connected to receptors of auditory ( hearing ) and visual senses. Gravitational insecurity ( an extreme fear and anxiety that one will fall when one’s head position changes ) is a function of the vestibular system.

Visual-spatial organization

The ability to perceive and interpret what the eyes see. Need to be able to take in information through the sense organ ( eyes ) and interpret it ( occipital lobe ) and organize it in use ( frontal lobe, sensorimotor areas, etc). Includes depth perception, directionality, form constancy, position in space, spatial awareness ( distance between you and objects ), visual discrimination, visual figure-ground ( between objects ). Also includes vertical/horizontal/diagonal perception and plane integration. Essential for success in mathematical performance.


* Reference of terms by Rondalyn V. Whitney, MOT, OTR/L

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