Marion Dowling talks of children experiencing ‘disequilibrium’ when they encounter something they don’t expect. This can leave them feeling momentarily ‘disorientated’ whilst their brain and body tries to work it out, but each time it occurs, their learning moves to another level. As adult’s, often in a rush with eyes prone to miss the detail that fascinates young children, it’s easy to lose touch with what this might feel like.  Walking to school this afternoon in the balmy heat I experienced one such moment. As I made my way up a steep path beneath a canopy of trees I sensed that something wasn’t right. Not in an alarming way, but in a ‘can’t quite put my finger on it way’.  I suddenly realised what it was, the ground was thick with autumn leaves, crisp and dry underfoot, yet the weather was gloriously hot and certainly not what you’d expect in October.

Deeply engaged in research into sensory processing difficulties, this moment of discombobulation has parallels with the sensory information mis-match that many children and adults experience on a daily basis. For me fortunately those crunchy leaves were a mere fleeting distraction. For many people with sensory processing difficulties, constant bombardment and overload; conflicting sensory information; and lack of integration must cause at best a challenge and at worst, discomfort and pain. Our brain it seems thrives on moments of disequilibrium, but only when this is the exception rather than the norm.