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Sensory Integration

"You can't punish a child who is acting out because of sensory overload." Temple Grandin

Once children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) have been accurately diagnosed, they will benefit from Occupational Therapy utilizing a Sensory Integration approach.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder have difficulty processing information from the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing) and responding appropriately to that information. These children typically have one or more senses that either over- or under react to stimulation. Sensory processing disorder can cause problems with a child's development and behavior.

Who has sensory processing disorder?

Children with autism and other developmental disabilities often have Sensory Processing disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder can also be associated with premature birth, brain injury, learning disorders, and other conditions.

What causes sensory processing disorder?

The exact cause of Sensory Processing Disorder is not known. It is commonly seen in people with autism, Asperger's syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. Most research suggests that people with autism have irregular brain function. More study is needed to determine the cause of these irregularities, but current research indicates they may be inherited.

What are the symptoms?

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder cannot properly process sensory stimulation from the outside world. Your child may:

  • Either be in constant motion or fatigue easily or go back and forth between the two.

  • Withdraw when touched.

  • Refuse to eat certain foods because of how the foods feel when chewed.

  • Be oversensitive to odors.

  • Be hypersensitive to certain fabrics and only wear clothes that are soft or that they find pleasing.

  • Dislike getting his or her hands dirty.

  • Be uncomfortable with some movements, such as swinging, sliding, or going down ramps or other inclines. Your young child may have trouble learning to climb, go down stairs, or ride an escalator.

  • Have difficulty calming himself or herself after exercise or after becoming upset.

  • Jump, swing, and spin excessively.

  • Appear clumsy, trip easily, or have poor balance.

  • Have odd posture.

  • Have difficulty handling small objects such as buttons or snaps.

  • Be overly sensitive to sound. Vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, hair dryers, leaf blowers, or sirens may be upsetting.

  • Lack creativity and variety in play. For instance, your child may play with the same toys in the same manner over and over or prefer only to watch TV or videos.

Sensory Integration Therapy

The goal of Sensory Integration (SI) is to facilitate the development of the nervous system’s ability to process sensory input in a more typical way.

Through integration, the brain pulls together sensory messages and forms coherent information upon which to act. Sensory Integration Therapy uses neurosensory and neuromotor exercises to improve the brain’s ability to repair itself.

During treatment, a child is guided through activities that challenge his or her ability to respond appropriately to sensory input by making successful, organized responses. Therapy typically involves activities that provide vestibular, auditory, proprioceptive, tactile, and oral stimulation. It focuses on activities that challenge the child with sensory input. The therapist then helps the child respond appropriately to this sensory stimulus.

 

Therapy might include applying deep touch pressure to a child's skin with the goal of allowing him or her to become more used to and process being touched. Also, play such as tug-of-war or with heavy objects, such as a medicine ball, can help increase a child's awareness of her or his own body in space and how it relates to other people.

When successful, Sensory Integration can improve attention, concentration, listening, comprehension, balance, coordination and impulsivity control.