The Sensory Experience

It was a very hands-on presentation at the latest Grand Rounds session on “The Sensory Experience”.  Occupational Therapists at Ontario Shores, Jennifer Shin and Rama Arora-Persaud took the audience on a sensory journey as they explored how the use of sensory modalities can affect those persons living with a mental illness.

“Senses enable us to perceive and interact with the external environment,” shared Persaud.  This interaction is usually through sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.  Persaud adds “Sensory modulation is how we receive information then interpret it, usually by relating it to our prior experiences and then generating an appropriate response.”

Poor sensory modulation can lead to a person feeling disorganized, having poor self-regulation and irrational thoughts, emotional swings, increased anxiety and even result in self-harm.

The team at Ontario Shores works with persons living with a mental illness to arrive at a way to effectively regulate how sensory input affects them.  This is usually based on the individual’s needs and is developed following discussion with the person.

“The sensory input varies from person to person. For some people, rocking gently back and forth is calming and others may prefer rocking from side to side,” shares Persaud.

Effective sensory modulation helps a person arrive at an optimal range of calmness or alertness to allow them to interact with other people and their environment. Receiving input at the sensory level can be very helpful to persons with a mental illness.  For example, some persons may be calmed by touch when they are stressed or someone may need stimulation to become more alert.

There are sensory carts available for use at Ontario Shores.  These carts are stocked with tools which may be used to help patients by addressing their identified need for calmness or alertness.  The Occupational Therapist will work collaboratively with the care team to develop an appropriate plan.

One area that affects the senses is Music Therapy.  This kind of therapy is often a great way to promote health through music experiences and the relationships formed to develop change. “Music helps persons be in contact with their feelings and emotions, creates a sense of feeling alive and often relieves symptoms like disturbing thoughts, voices and hallucinations,” shares Jose Wong, Therapeutic Recreationist. 

“It is usually the shared experiences around the music being heard that is helpful to the patients participating in the therapy,” adds Music Therapist, Erin Clark.

Sensory modulation can help facilitate recovery for those persons living with a mental illness.