What is sensory integration?
“As you become more sensitive to the sensory integration of your child, you may be able to help him/her…lead a happier, more successful life.” Jean Ayres
Sensory Integration is an unconscious process in the brain (occurs without us thinking about it – like breathing). It organizes information detected by the senses (taste, sight, hearing, touch, smell, movement, gravity, and position). It also gives meaning to what is experienced by sifting through all the information & selecting what to focus on (such as listening to the teacher and ignoring the noises of the traffic outside). Adequate Sensory Integration allows us to act or respond to the situation we are experiencing in a purposeful manner (known as an adaptive response). The adequate integration of sensory information forms the underlying foundation for academic learning and social behavior.
(Sensory Integration and the child, AJ Ayres)
- Vestibular (movement) system: The Vestibular/movement system tells us where our head and body is in space. This helps us maintain our balance and guides our movements through space.
- Proprioceptive (muscle and joint feedback) system: Proprioception is the movement received from the muscles and joints which gives one an idea of where your body is in space and makes it possible to perform movements and tasks without the use of one’s vision. It also allows us to know how much pressure we need to do certain things e.g. picking up a glass of water.
We constantly receive information from all of our senses and in order to optimally interact with our environment and engage in our daily activities we should be able to integrate and use all of this information.
What is Sensory Integration OT (SI OT)?
• Occupational therapy treatment happens through using play as a medium.
• “Sensory integration that occurs in moving, talking and playing is the groundwork . . . .for reading, writing, and good behavior.” (Jean Ayres)
• Treatment requires continuous grading of activities to help facilitate the “just-right challenge”, active participation and fun, in order for the child to experience a sense of success.
• In Sensory Integration therapy the focus of therapy is to provide the child with sensory experiences so that they can start to make better sense of the sensory input from their bodies and from the external environment.
• Once they are able to make better sense of the sensory input they receive, therapy will also be directed at working on additional areas affected by insufficient sensory processing i.e. postural control, bilateral integration, motor planning, visual perception, fine motor skills etc.
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)