What is Sensory Integration?
Sensory integration is the way we process and organize information from our body’s five senses (sight, taste, sound, smell and touch). Our brains use this sensory information to help us respond to our environment. The connection between our actions and the way our brain works is called sensory integration. Our central nervous system is responsible for such functioning.
Sensory integration usually develops automatically and begins before birth. When a person’s sensory signals do not organize into appropriate responses, it is called sensory integration disorder or sensory processing disorder. Those who have sensory difficulties find it hard to accomplish many daily tasks that others take for granted as happening automatically. The level of sensory difficulties that one has will vary from person to person with this disorder.
In the event that a sensory integration disorder or a developmental sensory deficit exists, learning disabilities and behavior disorders may result. This is due to being unable to process and organize sensory information in an appropriate manner.
- Learning disabilities are usually caused by problems within the integration process. Gathering and processing of information and sensations (perceptions) from the environment, combined with movement, determine learning. This information is used to plan and organize children’s behavior.
- Any problems associated with the sensation processes are linked to the ability to produce appropriate behavior, which affects both learning and behavior.
The central nervous system can be shaped by interactions and exposure to events that our children have in their lives. Parenting styles that provide a nurturing, positive setting with age-appropriate boundaries; help to raise a responsible, well-adjusted human being. A young brain can be shaped naturally. If a child lacks the opportunity to participate in positive social interactions, it is likely to have a negative effect on brain development as well as on the development of general abilities.
What does sensory integration disorder look like?
Children with sensory integration problems are very easily irritated. They may over-react or under-react to environmental stimuli (touch, movement, sight, sound). They have difficulties establishing proper sleep patterns, social interactions, and eating habits. Due to emotions being unstable, they can be difficult to calm down and soothe.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Inattentive or hypersensitive to stimuli
- Avoids touch
- A high pain threshold
- Often interrupts activities, is restless, high activity level or jumps from subject to subject
- Independence is developing very slowly
- Has temper tantrums
- Never/always tired
- Tendency to be easily distracted
- Has social and/or emotional problems
- Physical clumsiness or carelessness
- Lacks self-control
- Difficulty in new situations and in making transitions from one situation to another
- Delays in speech, language, or motor skills
- Delays in academic achievement
Many of these symptoms sound very different from one another, but each of them might suggest problems with the sensory integration development of your child. You know your child best and are the best person to decide if help is needed.
Help is available!
- A diagnosis results from an Occupational or Physical Therapist who is certified in sensory integration disorders conducting standardized tests and behavioral observations of your child.
- Therapy provided by a certified Occupational or Physical Therapist trained in sensory integration, can provide an individualized treatment plan to meet the specific sensory needs of your child. These therapists are able to provide you with valuable insight and tools to use at home with your child.
- A sensory diet is commonly designed for children who have sensory concerns. This ‘diet’ consists of routines and interventions selected to give the child appropriate sensory input and to meet the needs of their unique nervous system. Examples may include, brushing, use of weighted blankets, or specific exercises.
Sensory integration therapy
- Sensory integration therapy provides the best results when it is started early in life. Parents are often afraid of it, but they should be not. Sensory Integration Therapy is fun for children to participate in. Some of the materials used includes: giant balls, rolling rollers, rope ladders, hanging nets, and swings. These kinds of toys provide stimuli for vestibular (sense of balance) and tactile (use of touch) sensation.
- The best predictor of finding success with sensory integration therapy is the motivation of your child to select and participate in the activities. Since the activities central to improving sensory concerns center around play, children look forward to the activities and can successfully begin the progress of learning how to correctly organize and respond to sensory input.
- Apart from the fun and unstructured play, the sensory activities bring developmental benefits as well. Behavior gets more organized, and certain processes in the nervous system begin to function normally.
- The main goal of sensory integration intervention is improving the child’s quality of life and comfort level in responding to their environment.
Every growing child needs this kind of stimulus. However, when the development of the nervous system is difficult or slower, children need a lot more from these experiences. This is when Sensory Integration Therapy should be considered.
Even when a parent might be afraid of what might be lacking in their child, the results of sensory integration therapies are usually spectacular. The treatment might be the final piece in the puzzle to direct development in the most appropriate way.
Further strategies are within reach!
The Building Blocks of Positive Parenting is our exclusive book that contains a wealth of interventions for sensory integration concerns and other common childhood disorders and behavioral concerns.
You will also find that it is packed with guidance to help you achieve a solid and positive parenting foundation in your home!
The best part of this awesome book is that you don’t have to read the entire thing! You get to pick and choose what sections your family could benefit from the most. With all of the practical ideas, reproducible behavior systems, and time tested advice; it truly is the easiest to use resource manual available to parents today. ~Now that sounds like what parents can use as we juggle life’s many tasks!