Sensory Integration Treatment
Based upon the original work of A. Jean Ayres, Sensory Integration theory and practice has grown to incorporate advanced practice in response to the growing body of knowledge about the brain, its pathways, and the ways in which mind and body work. Our treatments include a variety of methods used to address deficits in all of the sensory processing systems.
Just as a computer is made to process data, the human brain is made to process sensory data into meaningful information. The brain is designed to be able to process classroom sounds into instructions, written numbers into equations, and even sights along a roadway into traffic signs.
Examples of sensory processing that the brain handles might include the ability to process:
- sounds into language, music, or the wail of a siren.
- sights into words, pictures, or faces of people you know
- touch into the soft feel of a silky blouse, the itch of a garment tag at the back of your neck, or the light touch of a bug on your arm
- tastes and textures in the mouth into the sweet taste of ice cream, the bumpy texture of tapioca, the tingle of a stick of cinnamon gum, or the sour crisp of a pickle
- moving through space into the gentle lull of a boat ride, the plummet of a roller coaster dip, or the alert to danger when stumbling
- smells and feelings associated with the aroma of hot bread, the fragrance of a flower, or the stench of a boys locker room
- joint movement and muscle excursion into the pressure of a firm handshake, or the pull of muscles exercising
The brain is designed to simultaneously integrate these types of sensory inputs and compute their meaning, given a particular context. e.g. A light moving touch on the arm while sitting on a blanket on a sunny day at a picnic might be computed as a bug on your arm, while a light moving touch on the arm while at a nighttime party might be computed as an invitation to dance.
Understanding Sensory Integration Disorder
Sensory Integration Disorder is an inability to pull together and understand (or process) sensory information from the environment. This includes the ability to understand sensory information that arises from one’s own body (such as from muscles and joints), as well as understanding sensory information that arises from other people (such as language) and objects in the environment.
Everyone experiences difficulties in pulling together this type of information at one time or another, particularly during periods of growth, change, or stress. However, people who have sensory integration dysfunction experience these difficulties consistently throughout most of their day. These difficulties impact their performance at home, at work, at school, and at play.
How Common Is It?
Sensory Integration Disorders, also referred to as sensory based learning disabilities, is estimated to impact 15 to 25% of our children in each classroom according to some sources. This means that approximately one in every 4 children suffers some type of learning disability that can be explained by sensory processing deficits.
Are There Any Early Warning Signs?
Early signs of Sensory Integration Disorder may include over or under sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds; unusually high or low activity level; poorly organized behavior; delays in speech, language, motor skills; poor play skills; social detachment, or delays in acquiring developmental skills
Sensory integration disorders impact learning and social behavior. When left untreated, the behaviors of children with sensory integration disorders tend to show associated disorders such as attention deficit, learning disability, behavior problems, dyslexia, and other perceptual phenomena.
For example, when the ability to process sounds is impaired, the child might be able to hear, but not necessarily understand speech and other environmental sounds. Following instructions may be difficult as well as developing intelligible speech.
When the ability to process sights is impaired, although the child is able to see, they may not necessarily be able to recognize common objects and associate them with their function. At times these children may not be able to judge how close they are to objects and frequently stumble or trip.
When the ability to process touch is impaired, although the child may be able to appreciate touch to some degree, they might not necessarily understand how to touch. Grip may be too hard, too light, or too rough. Broken toys, and difficulties with safe play may be problematic.
When the ability to process taste or even touch inside the mouth is impaired, although the child eats, typically they are very picky eaters. Since healthy nutrition impacts mood, activity level, and attention, learning will be affected as well.
Children with sensory integration disorders can be helped through treatment that is provided by a therapist who is trained in use of the specialized equipment and techniques needed to address the underlying sensory processing issues.
Need help getting these issues addressed?
Take a look at our Virtual Occupational Therapy page.