Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory integration is the ability to organize sensations for use during functional tasks. It involves the five sensory systems known by most people (taste, smell, vision, hearing, and touch), but also involves the vestibular system (sense of movement and gravity) and the proprioceptive system (sense of feedback from the muscles and joints that allows us to know where we are in space). The tactile (touch), vestibular, and proprioceptive systems are important in the developmental process, allowing accurate processing of sensations from our body and the environment in order to generate appropriate motor responses. A child with a well-integrated sensory system is able to process complex sensory information and successfully execute goal-directed actions on the environment.
Based on these adaptive responses, the child is able to register, interpret, organize and integrate sensory information in order to build motor skills such as postural control, muscle tone, body awareness, bilateral coordination, praxis, self-help skills, eye-hand coordination, fine motor skills, social interactions, arousal level and emotional control.
When a child’s nervous system is having difficulty accurately processing this complex sensory information, they may have difficulty responding appropriately to meet challenges. Simple tasks may be difficult, which leads to frustration and avoidance of sensory opportunities or movement challenges. Children with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) are usually referred to Occupational or Physical Therapy due to behavioral, social, or motor coordination difficulties. The following are some red flags:
- Overreaction or under-reaction to sensory stimuli
- Doesn’t tolerate hair-brushing, dental work, or tags in clothing.
- Doesn’t realize when injured.
- Is unusually active or on the go.
- Is sedentary most of the time.
- Impulsive or unusually high activity level – risk taker
- Avoidance of playground equipment
- Decreased attention span or ability to concentrate
- Decreased strength
- Clumsiness due to decreased muscle tone or balance
- Difficulty with changes in routine or transitions
- Delayed language skills
- Poor Self-Concept
- Difficulty with coping skills
- Difficulties with academics
- Social-Emotional difficulties
- Delayed play skills
Sensory Integrative therapy helps the child to better process sensory information in order to build the foundational motor skills that are important for functional performance. The therapist provides the “just right” challenge to the child’s sensory and motor systems for the child to achieve an adaptive response. This builds the sensory and motor pathways in the brain, leading to improved sensory processing and motor output. This process continues until the child begins to build a foundation of sensory and motor skills.