Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration Dysfunction
Sensory Integration Treatment

When we think of the senses, we usually think only of the five senses – vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. In addition, there are two other important senses that are less familiar:

  • The vestibular system gives us information about our body's movements in space. It gives us our sense of balance and gravity, and coordinates our eye movements to see properly.
  • The sense of proprioception, from receptors in our joints and muscles, tells us about our body position. It allows movement and manipulation of objects without looking and with the appropriate amount of force.

Along with touch, these sensory systems help us learn the art of movement.

From a baby's discovery of crawling to development of motor skills, the body depends on the smooth processing of sensory information. This allows the child to maintain appropriate arousal levels, pay attention to and successfully respond to the environment, and plan and execute skilled motor movements

Most children develop normal sensory integration through routine exploration of the world, but some need extra help. A child may have difficulty planning and organizing actions, carrying out skilled movements, learning new tasks and unfamiliar movements, or maintaining appropriate attention levels for learning and interacting. When sensory integration is disordered, problems in learning, development, or behavior may occur.

Signs of Sensory Integration Dysfunction

If your child shows any of the following signs, it might indicate a Sensory Integration (DSI) Disorder:

Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights, or sounds

  • Irritability or withdrawal from touch
  • Avoidance of certain textures of clothes or foods
  • Distracted by sounds or sights or smells
  • Fearful reactions to movement activities

Under-reactive to sensory stimulation

  • Seeks out intense sensory stimuli: whirling, crashing into objects, or self-abusive behaviors
  • Seems oblivious to pain or body position

Activity level unusually high or low

  • Constantly on the move, or slow to activate and fatigues easily
  • May alternate between too high or too low

Coordination problems

  • Difficulties with gross or fine motor activities
  • Poor balance
  • Breaks toys unintentionally
  • Difficulty with unfamiliar tasks

Difficulty organizing proper behavior

  • Impulsive
  • Distractible
  • Shows little planning in approach to tasks
  • Difficulty adjusting to changes or transitioning between activities
  • Frustration, aggression, or withdrawal when encountering difficulty or failure
  • Difficult sleep patterns
  • Easily upset
  • Slow to recover from upsets

Poor self-concept

  • Refuses activities that s/he thinks will be difficult
  • S/he knows some tasks are more difficult than others but does not know why
  • May appear lazy, bored, or unmotivated
  • May begin to avoid tasks that are hard
  • May be labeled stubborn, manipulative, or a troublemaker

Typically, a child with sensory integration disorder will have a constellation of these problem areas, showing more than one of the signs above. If unaddressed, these problems may result in poor self-esteem, difficulty with peer relationships, and poor self-regulation.

If you think this profile fits your child, we can help you get started with a comprehensive Sensory Integration evaluation.

Sensory Integration Treatment

Occupational Therapy is always concerned with how people function in their daily life tasks and roles. Since one of a child’s important roles is play, Sensory Integration Therapy takes place in a setting that invites play.

During each session, the child is guided through activities that challenge his or her ability to respond successfully to the environment. These activities are generally chosen by the child, with the therapist’s guidance, to provide the right mix of tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input to meet the child’s specific developmental needs. The activities are carefully structured by the therapist, with the difficulty gradually advanced so the challenge is always at the best level to promote growth and mature response.

The child's active participation, motivation, and exploration is an important aspect of therapy. Under these conditions, the child's successful movement enables his or her nervous system to develop in a more mature fashion. This improves functional responses to the daily challenges of life.

In addition to clinic treatment, we will suggest home activities, or a "sensory diet," to continue and enhance the effects of treatment.

What is a sensory diet? Just as what we eat makes up our nutritional diet, the sensory activities we engage in make up our sensory diet. A healthy person can plan a balanced diet over the period of a few days to a week, but a diabetic must plan a balance over a few hours. Similarly, most people can balance their sensory diet over the course of a week, but a child with a sensory processing disorder may need specific sensory activities planned regularly throughout each day in order to maintain the ability to function.

We will work with you to create a sensory diet plan that works for your child and your family. We can also consult with school personnel or other caregivers to help you carry out the plan with consistency.

In addition to sensory integration treatment, the child’s clinical treatment plan may include CranioSacral Therapy, Neuronet, use of a deep-pressure touch protocol (sometimes known as "brushing") for sensory defensiveness, use of therapeutic listening programs, or other therapeutic modalities as appropriate.

Are you ready to get started developing your child’s individual treatment plan?