Sensory Integration refers to the neurological process of receiving, organizing, and responding to input from the sensory systems: Auditory, Visual, Gustatory (Taste), Tactile (Touch), Vestibular (Balance & Movement), Proprioceptive (Muscle & Joint sense).
Our ability to function in our daily environments is dependent on our ability to correctly process sensory information. Sensory Integrative Dysfunction (SID) is when the nervous system is unable to properly regulate sensory information; as a result children often experience problems with motor development, coordination, behavior and socialization. Some common clues that may determine if a child is having sensory integration problems are:
- Unusually high or low activity levels
- Impulsive or a risk taker
- Short attention span, easily distracted
- Problems with muscle tone and coordination; child may be clumsy, awkward, and accident prone
- Resistance to new situations; child may become stubborn or uncooperative with any minor change to their routine
- Academic, social, and emotional problems
Sensory Integration Therapy provides the child with the proper amount and type of sensory information that his/her nervous system requires to properly function. By providing the appropriate sensory information the child is able to develop adaptive behavior that leads to improved function and independence. An occupational therapist will guide the child through a variety of activities to help train the body to properly process sensory information. Some examples are the use of specialized swings to experience specific movement sensations, lying or sitting on therapy balls to improve balance, or moving through an obstacle course to improve motor planning.