Sensory Integration

Everybody is constantly processing sensory information from their surrounding environments. It is something we do without thought throughout our daily life. Some of us may be bothered by the tags in our shirt, we may need soothing music to fall asleep, or loud music to stay awake during a long drive, we may need to chew on the end of a pen during times of stress, but it is not until it impacts our daily functioning that sensory processing may become an issue.

For children with sensory processing disorder (SPD) it can be difficult to wear socks with seams, it can be a nightmare to get a haircut, wash their face or cut their nails, tolerate changes in routine, interact with peers, focus in class, watch a movie at the theatre, participate in gym class, sit through an assembly, write a story, or follow directions. This is when intervention is needed and a sensory integrative (SI) approach can help.

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration (SI) or sensory processing refers to the process by which the nervous system receives messages from the senses, the brain interprets and organizes them, and then turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Information is received through our seven sensory systems:

  • vision (sight)
  • auditory (hearing)
  • olfactory (smell)
  • gustatory (taste)
  • tactile (touch)
  • proprioception (movement of joints and muscles, and body position and awareness)
  • vestibular (pull of gravity and movement of the head in space)

Sensory information is taken in by these senses and then, through sensory integration/sensory processing, they are registered and discriminated by the body. The brain then decides what to do with this organized information and produces a motor output or response.

Sensory Integration is based on the theories developed in the 1970s by Dr. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and licensed clinical psychologist. She theorized that children and adults have difficulty processing sensory stimuli from their body and environment, which impacts academic and motor learning. More specifically, Sensory integration is the ability to register, organize, and adapt to different sensations that occur in everyday life.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

If there is any malfunction during any step of the sensory integrative process, certain behavioural and emotional problems might result. The terms sensory processing disorder (SPD) or sensory integration disorder (SID) are used to characterize children who cannot organize sensations into appropriate responses. A child with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses. This creates challenges in performing activities of daily living. If SPD is not treated effectively, a child may exhibit:

  • motor clumsiness
  • behavioural problems
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances
  • school failure
  • and other challenges

Would my child benefit from treatment in Sensory Integration?

Please contact us to see if Sensory Integration Therapy is right for your child.