The Sensory Processes and Motor Skills Training for Safe Vehicle Operation
Did you know that the vestibular activities and input systems work together as one? It is true, and this is good news to many people that suffer from various types of disorders that affect their ability to move or feel well. The vestibule is part of the nervous system and is located in your ears. It is important to note that this part of the nervous system is separate from the thinking part that is what you think of when you think of the word neurology. Vestibular activities and input are received from the brain each time you move your head, and the nerves for this particular sensory organ are found very deeply within your inner ear.
The vestibular systems are composed of small canals lined along with some small hairs, and these tiny hairs have some very fluid in them. When you think of the movement of your head, the nerves that are running along with the hair wave and canals pick up the information and send it on to your brain. You then experience what we call a vestibular “avoider” or blocker. This is your brain trying to prevent further damage done to it by vestibular activities and input.
In order for the vestibular activities and input to be effective, there must be a way for the body to know how to respond or block out this external source of information. This is where body awareness is critical, and many people that have issues with vestibular activities and input find that the problem is either due to lack of body awareness or improper body awareness. For instance, if you were walking in a room and there were two balls on the floor, which one would you want to aim at? The ball that is most likely to get thrown backward by your body or the one that was the first one you saw coming?
The answer of course is the first one. This is not just an example of improper sensory integration. The real problem here is your interpretation of this information. In vestibular activities and input, your brain takes in all the information, sorts it, parses it and sends it on to your spinal cord to decide what action to take based on its conclusion of the data. On the other hand, your sensory system, the sensory organs that send the information on the outside to your brain decides how much or how little of this information will be processed within your body and decides whether or not you will perceive it as something that is worthy of your attention.
For instance, you have a spinning object in front of you, say a tennis ball. Your proprioceptive information shows you that the ball is coming in on your spinning motion, and your somatic information tells you that you are about to hit it. So, you focus on hitting the ball, and you swing. Now, if you were to focus on the spinning motion without any sensory processing, you might hit the ball but it would be disjointed from your other intended movements, perhaps due to your over-attention to the spinning action.
The same principle applies to your vestibular activities and input when you have to swerve in your car to avoid a collision. Your proprioception tells you that there is a hazard in your line of sight, and your somatic tells you that you need to adapt your body movements to avoid it. However, if you were to ignore both of these cues, you would undoubtedly miss the collision. This is because both your sensory and gustatory systems work together to help you determine where you are in space relative to others. If you ignore either of these signals, the results can be very damaging to your ability to remain properly balanced in your driving.
If you want to take your car and vehicle safely from novice to expert driver with some amount of proficiency, you need to make sure that you have a complete sensory diet that includes both proprioception and gustatory information. In addition, you need to make sure that you have a complete proprioception and kinesthetic understanding of your driving environment so that you can anticipate the various events that might occur and pre-empt a possible accident. If you only have a gustatory (sensory) perception of your environment, you won’t know where you are in relation to others, and your perception and ability to anticipate hazards will be greatly reduced.
The sensory integration approach to motor skills training for safety incorporates both visual and tactile processing. It should not be viewed as a purely physical activity; rather, it should be seen as a conscious effort to use both sensory and gustatory processing to increase awareness of your body and to pre-empt potentially hazardous situations. By doing so, you can significantly increase your level of proficiency as a driver.