Sensory Integration and Somatic Experiencing

Ana do Valle, OTR, SEP

The Sensory World of a Child: Attachment and Trauma.

 How to Best Promote Resilience and Secure Attachment 

Early attachment creates the baseline for relationships throughout our life span.  Our sensory systems allow us to experience the world.  Genetic factors and in utero events influence the child’s sensory capacities.  In relationships, we continue to experience the flow and exchange of sensory information.  It is through the sensory systems that we integrate raw data (sensory signals) that then create our behavior and emotional responses to the world.  


As parents and caregivers we become the major players in the sensory world of a child, influencing the sensory dimensions of that world.  In relationships, interactions that are created based on the predominance of shared sensory preferences provide a sense of security, acceptance and love.  In this workshop we will explore ways to use sensory-based connections to foster a secure attachment style.


Trauma at any point in life can affect our relationships and attachment style, and these effects are especially strong in the early years. Trauma experienced both by the child or the parent can determine the tolerance, range and ability to integrate sensory input, which highly influences attachment and overall resilience in life.


 The way we process and interpret sensory input, like the tone of voice, movement, facial expressions, touch of others, smell and taste often incorporates and is influenced by early memories (implicit memories) and associations that are stored in the body.

 The interpretation and integration of this sensory information (i.e. sound, movement, touch, sight, smell), and the emotional relevance and meaning we give to the world around us highly influences our interpersonal relationships. 


By becoming aware of this process of sensing, processing and interpreting sensory data, we can influence and shift our responses to the environment and others.   Attachment styles and interpersonal relationships can be influenced by the use sensation in the context of relating to another.  A well-balanced sensory world of a child has the capacity to strengthen the sense of self, counteract dissociation and orient the experience to the present moment.