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Sensory integration(SI) is a neurological process that makes sense of and organizes sensations from ones own body and the surrounding environment. SI is necessary in order to be able to use the body effectively within the environment. SI is the foundation that allows for complex learning and behavior.
SI is founded on the following 7 senses: visual, auditory, touch, smell, taste, vestibular (pull of gravity) and proprioception (body awareness and movement). The senses involved in SI give us information about our external and internal environments. Our brain takes in the information from the senses and uses it to form a full picture of who we are, where we are, and what is going on around us. This picture can only be formed through the critical process of SI.
The normal process of SI development begins before birth and continues throughout life as the individual interacts with the environment. The majority of SI development occurs before the early teenage years. The ability for SI to become more refined and effective coincides with the aging process as it determines how well motor and speech skills, and emotional stability develop. However, in some children SI doesn’t effectively develop and for these individuals extensive effort and attention are required for SI to occur, without a guarantee of it being accomplished. When the SI process is disordered, a variety of problems in learning, development, or behavior become obvious.
Sensory integration When a child has SID their disorder/dysfunction (SID) or response to sensory information sensory processing disorder, is a often appears extreme and neurological disorder that results inappropriate for the particular from the brains inability to situation. integrate certain information received from the bodys sensory systems. Individuals with SID are unable to respond to certain sensory information in such a way that allows them to appropriately plan and organize what needs to be done. For most individuals this process is automatic, but individuals with SID instead go into primitive survival techniques of fight or flight and/or withdrawal.
Sensory integration disorder can be caused by: › the brain not receiving messages due to a disconnection in the neuron cells. › Sensory messages being received inconsistently. › Sensory messages are received consistently, but do not connect properly with other sensory messages.
The following are some signs of sensory integration disorder: › Over sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds › Under reactivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds › Specific learning difficulties /delays in academic achievement › Difficulty in making transitions from one situation to another › Tendency to be easily distracted / Limited attention control › Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low › Social and/or emotional problems › Difficulty learning new movements › Delays in speech, language, or motor skills › Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness › Impulsive, lacking in self-control › Inability to unwind or calm self › Poor self concept / body awareness
In real life some of the previously listed symptoms can be seen if your child avoids touching, refuses to wear certain clothing, is a picky eater, covers his/her ears or eyes, or conversely, craves sensations like grabbing others, prefers hot bath water and spicy foods, and seem oblivious to sensory cues. Oversensitivity or undersensitivity to movement sensation? For example: your child seeks out movement like swinging, twirling, jumping, or avoids active games. Unusually high or low activity level? For example: your child may be constantly on the go, wearing out everyone around him/her or moves slowly and tires easily, showing little interest in the world. Problems with motor coordination? For example: he/she may be awkward, seemingly careless, or accident-prone.
SID is often associated with the following disabilities and disorders: › Autism spectrum › Learning disabilities and ADHD › Language disorders › Behavioral disorders › Anxiety disorders and depression Factors that contribute to SID include: premature birth, autism and other developmental disorders, learning disabilities, delinquency and substance abuse due to learning disabilities, stress-related disorders, and brain injury. The two biggest contributing conditions are autism and ADHD. Some researchers question whether SID is a disorder that can be presented as a separate diagnosis or if it is simply a symptom of other disorders.
Evaluation for SID may be conducted by a qualified occupational or physical therapist. During an evaluation the therapist usually uses standardized testing as well as observations of responses to sensory stimulation, posture, balance, coordina tion, and eye movements. After the evaluation the therapist analyzes the data and considers information from other professionals and the parents before making a diagnosis and recommendations about treatment. Sensory integration therapy (also known as the “sensory diet”) is the conventional treatment used for SID and it allows the vital sensory input and experiences that children with SID need to grow and learn. The sensory integration therapy is designed to meet the individual needs of the child’s nervous system.
Sensory integration therapy began with the research and practice of A. Jean Ayres who was an occupational therapist who had advanced training in neuroscience and educational psychology. Ayres was interested in the relationship between children’s sensory systems, the processing of sensation, learning and motor difficulties. The term sensory integration was made popular by Ayres. The Southern California Sensory Integration Tests (SCSIT) was developed by Ayres as a means to assess the components of sensory integration and guide treatment. The Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) is the revised edition of the SCSIT and is known as the “gold standard,” most thorough and well-researched means for assessing sensory integration skills and deficits Ayres developed theories about typical patterns of disability based on results from her testing and observations of children. Based on her research Ayres created methods of treatment for specific patterns of disability using what she called enhanced sensory experiences. Ayres methods and therapies later came to be known as sensory integration therapy.
Most children are able to learn to combine their senses without being aware of it. However, some children with SID are not able to combine their senses effectively and because of this they have a difficult time making sense of their environment. For children with SID, a form of occupational therapy called sensory integration therapy can be used to help. Sensory integration therapy is designed to stimulate and challenge the senses. Sensory integration therapy is sometimes conducted in a special room that is designed to interact and challenge all the senses at once, however sensory integration therapy techniques can be used in any setting to activate one or more senses. Sensory integration therapy is founded on the assumption that the child being treated is either understimulated or overstimulated by the environment. Therefore, therapy aims to increase the ability of the brain to process various sensory information and allow the child to function better in their daily environment and daily activities. Research suggests that sensory information received from the environment is critical in such a way that interactions between the child and the environment shape the brain and influence learning. Additionally, research suggests that in response to sensory input from the environment the brain can change, and rich sensory experiences can stimulate change in the brain.
Sensory integration therapy is founded on four principles: The child must be able to successfully meet the challenges that are presented through playful activities (Just Right Challenge). The child adapts her behavior with new and useful strategies in response to the challenges presented (Adaptive response). The child will want to participate because the activities are fun (Active Engagement). The childs preferences are used to initiate therapeutic experiences within the session (Child Directed).
Sensory integration therapy is designed in such a way that makes the child want to run, play and explore. During sensory integration therapy the child works with an occupational therapist, and sometimes other peers, in order to perform activities that combine sensory input with motion, such as: › Swinging in a hammock (movement through space); › Dancing to music(sound); › Playing in boxes filled with beans (touch); › Crawling through tunnels (touch and movement through space); › Hitting swinging balls (eye-hand coordination); › Spinning on a chair (balance and vision); and › Balancing on a beam (balance). › In every activity the child is guided through it in a way that is stimulating and challenging. The focus is to combine appropriate movements with the input the child is getting from their different senses.
For a video showing some sensory integration therapy techniques use the link below: › http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02JlnqU hXeU
Research on the effectiveness of sensory integration is limited and inconclusive. In the literature on sensory integration therapy, there is a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy. About half of the literature concludes that there are no benefits associated with the use sensory integration therapy and the other half find significant results. Much of this controversy could be due to the fact that there are very few well-designed studies to gain evidence from.
Sensory integration therapy is not harmful, but some children may be uncomfortable with some forms of sensory therapy used and so the occupational therapy should be observant and ready to remove any exercises that prove to be an issue. Since sensory integration therapy is not harmful, even though the jury is still out on the effectiveness, it is commonly used and many experts swear by it. Some suggest that sensory integration therapy is more useful for younger children or that it may only be effective on some children and not others, because of this they suggest the therapy should be discontinued if effects are not apparent during a specified time frame or if the child has a negative reaction. In many instances sensory integration therapy has made a difference in the life of the child by allowing for decreased sensitivities to touch and other stimuli and by better preparing the child to play, learn and interact with people and the environment.
Although the research is inconclusive in regards to the effectiveness of sensory integration therapy, it is a common technique used to treat children with autism spectrum, learning disabilities, ADHD, language disorders, behavioral disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. Many occupational therapists and families of children with sensory integration difficulties do testify towards the effectiveness of sensory integration and could tell many success stories. There are many children who have benefited from the services of sensory integration therapy and the effectiveness may rely less on the specific disorder the child has, but instead have more to do with individual differences within the children it is used with.
There is a great deal of information related to sensory integration, sensory integration disorders, and sensory integration therapy online and in the research. In order to keep this presentation a manageable manner, many things have been left out. If you would like more elaborate and detailed information you can use the resources listed in the references or refer to a multitude of scholarly articles. I hope this presentation has presented a good and useful base of knowledge.