Children with sensory integration dysfunction frequently experience problems with their sense of touch, smell, hearing, taste and/or sight. Along with this they often face difficulties in movement, coordination and sensing where one's body is in a given space. This is a common disorder for individuals with neurological conditions such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Individuals may be overly sensitive to certain textures, sounds, smells and tastes, while wearing certain fabrics, tasting certain foods or normal everyday sounds may cause discomfort. The opposite is also possible - for example a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder may feel little pain or actually enjoys sensations that a neurotypical children would dislike: strong smells, intense cold or unpleasant tastes.
The brain seems unable to balance the senses appropriately in cases of Sensory Integration Dysfunction. A specially designed room is used for therapy sessions, to stimulate and challenge all the senses. During the session, therapist works closely with the child to encourage muscle movement. The therapy is driven by four main principles:
*Just Right Challenge (Child must be able to meet the challenges through playful activities)
*Adaptive Response (Child adapts behaviours to meet the challenges presented)
*Active Engagement (Child should willingly participate because the activities are fun)
*Child-directed (Activities preferred by the child should be used in the session. Children with lower sensitivity (hyposensitivity) may be exposed to strong sensations, while children with heightened sensitivity (hypersensitivity) may be exposed to quieter activities. Treats and rewards may be used to encourage children to tolerate activities they normally avoid.
The theory of Sensory Integration (SI) was developed in the 1960 by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist who was a pioneer in learning disability treatment. She defined SI as; Capacity of body to organize sensory input, information and stimulation a person receives from his/her own body and the environment through the different sensory systems:
*Proprioceptive (Joint and muscle impulses)
*Vestibular (Movement, visual, auditory)
*Hearing and listening/auditory
This sensory information is then processed by the central nervous system and is used to help our body to develop spatial awareness, muscle tone, postural stability and self-regulation. SI gives us the awareness of our body and the ability to use it as a tool to interact with others in our world.
*For those with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, their brain is not able to process and organize the flow of sensory impulses properly. This can impact on a person’s functional, developmental and learning processes.
*Extremely sensitive to touch, movement sights and sounds.
*Decreased awareness of surroundings.
*Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low.
*Impulsive, lacking in self-control.
*Inability to unwind or calm self.
*Social and/or emotional problems.
*Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness.
*Difficulty in making transitions from one situation to another.
*Delays in speech, language or motor skills.
*Delays in academic achievements.
*Slow reaction to touch, movements, sights or sounds.
A Typical SI/OT Session
– To provide right kind of sensory stimulations for normalizing the sensory systems.
– Tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive, auditory and visual.
– To provide optimal state of alertness and attention.
– To develop an adaptive response for daily functioning.