Sensory Integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organise this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities. Sensory integration is a subconscious and automatic neurological process that occurs in every person at all stages of life.
Our brains take in information through our senses and organise it so that we are able to respond appropriately to particular situations and environmental demands. Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body position, vision, smell, taste, sound and the pull of gravity.
For most people sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. When a person has good sensory integration then they are able to process information automatically and efficiently. But for some people, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should and can affect activities of daily living, academic achievement, behaviour or social participation.
Here are some examples of our senses:
Hyper (over) sensitive
- Fear of heights
- Dislike of touch experiences eg nail cutting, messy play, hair cutting
- Dislike of loud and sudden sounds
- Avoidance of playground equipment (swings and slides)
Hypo (under) sensitive
- Appears to have no fear or doesn’t feel pain
- Seeks movement or touch opportunities (fidgets, rocks, runs about, leans on peers)
- Mouths or chews things
- Poor attention to the environment or people around
Motor Planning (praxis)
- Appears clumsy
- Difficulty creating movement ideas
- Difficulty planning and executing new movements
- Slouches at desk
- Fidgets/difficulty sitting in one position for extended period of time
- Impact on fine motor coordination & ball skills
- Poor balance
So how do our senses benefit from Occupational therapy?
Occupational Therapy and sensory integration work hand in hand:
“OTs engage kids in physical activities that are designed to regulate their sensory input, to make them feel more comfortable, secure, and able to focus.” – http://www.understood.org
So how about sensory integration within adults?…
“Occupational performance concerns due to poor integration and processing of sensation may occur in isolation, contribute to, or be comorbid with other conditions such as anxiety and panic disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia. Those with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, developmental disabilities, or autism spectrum disorders may also have these difficulties.
Occupational therapists have unique training and skills in neuroscience, anatomy, and activity/environmental analysis to identify and treat occupational performance issues resulting from sensory modulation, sensory integration, motor, and psychosocial deficits in adults experiencing difficulties with sensory functions. They work with caregivers and medical, educational, and mental health professionals to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of sensory-related problems and types of interventions used with adults.” – http://www.aota.org