Sensory processing (sometimes called “sensory integration” or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
It 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 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)
2 Hidden Sensory Systems:
Indicators for therapeutic intervention for Sensory Integration difficulties
“Some problems, such as measles, broken bones, or poor eyesight, are obvious. Others, such as problems underlying slow learning and poor behavior, are not obvious. Slow learning and poor behavior in children are often caused by inadequate sensory integration within the child’s brain. These sensory integration problems are not obvious, yet they occur among children throughout the world . . . . . . . . “(AJ Ayres)
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.
• 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.
“The things that make me different are the things that make me”
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
Ayres, A., 2005. Sensory Integration and the Child, 25th edn. Los Angeles: Western Psyychological Services.