Sensory and Cognitive Exercises to Help Reverse Learning Disabilities and Disorders

Sensory Disorder Tactile TestIt is normal for everyone to have some intellectual or physical strengths and weaknesses. It is good for diversity in the human race. It is what makes some people become musicians and artists or engineers and mathematicians.

But with some, in the early years, parts of the brain and cognitive function develop a little weaker than other areas. Some times this is because the child is very smart and advance so fast that it actually causes problems for other areas of the brain.  Once this happens, the brains neurological connections don’t pass information back and forth as well.  Some areas and functions of the brain don’t work in sync with others properly.  It causes disabilities, disorders and health problems. This is why challenged kids are advanced in some things, but struggling with learning, behavior or sensory issues. They are very intelligent, but lag in other areas or have strange quirks and disabilities.  It  can be improved, and in many cases, even completely reversed with the cognitive exercises below. You can do the testing and exercises yourself or take them to a hemispheric balance type center. It is simple and not too difficult to do right at home.  Do each of the tests below, even if they do not label your childs particular disability. Weakness in any of these functions can cause the other functions to have problems as well.

Sensory and Cognitive Tests and Exercises

Why They are so Important to Learning:

When babies are born, they have all of the brain structures in place for the neurological connections to start maturing. As they grow and learn, they create neurological connections or pathways which are used for brain function, recall and memory. Small electrical pulses shoot through the finely organized neurons, like electricity through the wiring in a house.  If the wiring is off, the signals get messed up, causing interference in information, brain and body control. There are solutions.

When neurological weaknesses occur, it affects all of the systems from muscles and organs to sensory, memory and behavior. This causes Learning Disabilities, Behavioral Disorders, ADHD, ADD, Sensory Disorders and even Autism Spectrum Disorders. The child is usually diagnosed with one of the above problems. Because the brain controls the organs of the body, it can become severe enough to cause health problems such as Asthma, Autoimmune Diseases, food intolerances, stomach problems and much more.

How to reverse the problem: 

The tests and exercises above take less than one minute each. They will reveal what areas need strengthening. More and better organized neurons developed.  They say “Neurons that fire together, wire together” Lets get them firing together!

This process wasn’t known to many in the past, but has gained great momentum in the last few years as specialists learn more about the brain and disabilities and better brain imaging equipment is used. There are now many learning centers around the U.S. that are using these methods.


Visual Processing Function and Control

Visual motor skills and reading

Vision and eyesight are not the same thing. Eyesight is the ability to see something clearly (Known as Visual Acuity 20/20). Eyesight is tested with Eye Charts by pediatricians, schools and at regular optometrist visits.

Vision, on the other hand, is a skill developed as the child grows. Vision is the brain’s ability to use the images from both eyes to coordinate the images and control eye movements. Because vision is learned after birth and sometimes does not develop properly, it can be stimulated and exercised to correct it. There are several dysfunctions of vision that cause learning disabilities, especially in writing, reading, & math. They are not caught on a normal eyesight checkup, but can be cured. Tests and Exercise pages below.


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Vestibular Function and Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex

Learning Disabilities

The Vestibular function, much like the Proprioceptive System, contributes to balance, movement, and spacial awareness. It also contributes to posture and proper visual system function necessary for smooth reading.

The vestibular uses sensor receptors in your eyes and ears to tell you if you are turning or not. It also helps you stay upright in spite of gravity.

Major Vestibular Disorders are very noticeable as Vertigo and other balance issues. However, a very slight weakness in Vestibular Function and Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex(VOR) often goes unnoticed. This causes motor development issues, and balance and vision processing problems that contribute to Learning Disabilities especially reading, writing, and mathematical abilities.

Vestibular and VOR Weakness Symptoms
  • Dizziness when reading or focusing on an object.
  • Gets motion sickness easily.
  • Or can spin and spin without getting sick
  • Bumps into things (clumsy).
  • Difficulty doing math work.
  • Misdiagnosis of Learning Disabilities, especially Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and other reading disabilities
  • Spatial awareness weakness.
  • Sensory issues
  • ADHD

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Tactile Sensory Function

Sensory Disorder Tactile TestThe Tactile Sensory Function or ‘Sense of Touch’ is made up of 4 different receptors in your skin that sense things like texture, temperature, pressure etc. This information is then sent to the brain for processing. Sometimes the area receiving the information is under or over active.

If the function is weak, the child might not feel their body as well. These are the kids that act like nothing ever hurts them. They run around with no jacket in 30 degree weather. They might also do things to themselves that seem painful to others, like shoving things up their nose or walking across jagged ground without flinching.

If the function is overactive, they might complain about little things that would not normally bother a kid, like their sock being a little crooked in their shoe, or sweaters being ‘too scratchy’. They may even be severe enough to have a Sensory Processing Disorder.

 Under Active Tactile Function Symptoms

  • Compulsive need to touch people and textures
  • Doesn’t respect others personal space
  • High pain tolerance
  • Seems like a thrill seeker
  • Clumsy or uncoordinated
  • Hurts pets or other children
  • Low Confidence
  • Sensory Processing Disorder

Overactive Tactile Function Symptoms

  • Poor Balance
  • Avoids human contact
  • Complains about clothing
  • Doesn’t like crowds
  • Doesn’t like feet off the ground
  • Anxiety
  • Sensory Processing Disorder

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Proprioception Function (Balance) Tests and Exercises

Proprioceptive Function The Proprioception system is your balance and spatial awareness senses and function. It is responsible for the position of one’s self in relation to movement and gravity, but it affects much more than that. The brain receives input from several sensory areas including visual, auditory, muscles and joints to determine where you are in relation to gravity, and the objects around you.  It contributes to balance, posture, coordination, walking gait and movement around and between objects without bumping into them. However, if the Proprioception function is lacking, it can contribute to Learning Disorders, Behavioral Disorders, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Disorders. These children may walk funny or be a little clumsy. However, with most children, it will cause problems while going unnoticed until tested and strengthened though exercises below.

The core muscles (stomach, back, and side torso muscles) play a very important role in stimulating this function of the brain. Therefore, strengthening core muscles and oxygen-increasing exercises greatly contribute to overcoming Disabilities and Disorders.


Because the sense of balance (Proprioception) develops mostly in the first year of life, It can affect many things that are supposed to develop above that after the first year. The weakness can contribute to sensory and schooling issues. For example, if the brain is subconsciously still trying to gain a basic element like proper balance, it is always running in the background of the brain, like annoying music when you’re on hold on a phone. It inhibits the brain from focusing on higher functions such as reading comprehension or mathematical skills. There is a fantastic article of it here by Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP. It talks about all of the incredible affects of poor Proprioception.

  • Strange Gate
  • Clumsiness
  • Poor Balance
  • Immature picture drawing after age 5(stick figures)
  • Poor Reading Skills
  • Poor Math Skills
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Dyslexia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyscalculia
  • ADHD
  • ADD
  • Sensory Processing Disorders
  • Uncoordinated Movement
  • Dropping items a lot
  • Gripping pencil too hard
  • Wants to be held more as an older child

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Olfactory (Sense of Smell and Taste)

Olfactory test, sense of smell testThe Olfactory Function is your sense of smell and taste. With a weak sense of smell, one will also have a weak sense of taste. With an overactive Olfactory, they will be too sensitive to smells. Both can be corrected. A person with weakened Olfactory senses have never known differently, so they don’t have anything to compare it to, therefore they may never know it is weaker. Because of this, children won’t be able to tell you they don’t smell much. Most parents won’t know unless they test them.

There are some clues. A child that is a picky eater and judges food more by texture and how it looks, usually has an under developed sense of smell and taste: “I don’t want to eat that because it has green things in it.” or  “That food is slimy.”

Children that mention odors often may have an over active sense of smell, usually on one side. “Something smells burnt.”  “Who has bad breath?”  “I don’t want to eat that because it smells funny.”

Olfactory Deficiency Symptoms

  • Picky eater
  • Information processing problems
  • Under sensitivity or over sensitivity to odor
  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • Overactive or Underactive immune
  • Digestion problems
  • Food intolerance’s
  • Social and emotional problems

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Auditory Function – Tuning Fork Test

Auditory Function test or Rinne testThis test is a slightly modified Rinne test. Modified, because we are not looking for hearing conduction loss, we are trying to assess if one or both sides of the brain is a little weaker receiving and processing the sounds it receives. We do this because a weakness in processing any of the senses should be exercised to stimulate overall better cognitive function. Many times a child with Autism, Learning Disabilities, and Behavioral or Sensory Disorders shows a weaker audio processing in one side of the brain.

You will need a “256 hz tuning fork” you can ask your family doctor if they have one you can borrow or get one for under $10 at

This does not replace a hearing test. If you suspect your child has hearing loss, get a professional test. The purpose of this test is to look for weaker auditory process in one of the ears of a child with normal hearing.


Auditory Processing Test

Stand behind the child. Hold the tuning fork at the bottom. Strike it on the palm of your hand and hold it a few inches from one ear. Have the child say “now“ when they can no longer hear the vibrating hum. Time how long it takes for the sound to stop on each ear. Conduct the test the same on both ears. If one side is different from the other, or they can’t hear it well on both sides, the Exercises are needed!

Note: This is not a hearing test. If you suspect hearing loss at all, get a professional test at your nearest School for the Deaf. It is usually free. You can also go to an Audiologist for a proper hearing test.

For Hemispheric Balance:

Shorter time on the right side = left hemispheric weakness

Shorter time on the left side = right hemispheric weakness


One Ear Ninja Exercise:

A few times a week, put an earplug in the stronger ear so they are receiving stimulation only in the weaker ear. Try to work them up to keeping it in 30 minutes per day. Play music or talk with them during this time to stimulate their sense of hearing and processing sound in the weak side.

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