Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration Therapy

Developmentally, children spend the first eight years of life experiencing and challenging their bodies and their environment. Their minds are alive with information received through touch, taste, vision, smell, and sound. This stage in their development is crucial. It lays the foundation with which a child gains skills, self-confidence, and mastery of his/her body and their environment. Children express happiness in themselves and their world when development occurs as expected.

A child who shows difficulties with these foundations-whether it be delays in coordination or verbal communication-has consistently shown problems in learning, behavior, and with self-esteem. OT Connection provides the opportunity for your child to reach developmentally, his/her highest possible potential. That child can then face the world with a healthy sense of self.

Sensory Integration is a term that describes the brain’s ability to take in information from the senses, organize it, and respond to it during experiences of daily life. It is a process that helps mature the brain and mature the physical body. The three primary sensory systems are the tactile system (our ability to touch something and comprehend it, including the sense of pain and temperature), the vestibular system (located in the inner ear and involved in eye-hand coordination balance and coordination) and the proprioceptive system (involved in determining spacial relationships with our body and the world around us).

Through the senses, children are able to make sense out of their physical bodies and out of the physical world, which leads to adaptive responses to the environment. The senses lay critical foundations for normal development, impacting on gross and fine motor development, speech and language production, social and emotional maturity, and behavior and learning.

Challenges with sensory integration can occur in several different ways. One way is that the brain has a very high threshold of need for specific sensations, which then drives the person to seek out high intensity sensory activities in order to help make sense of the world.

For example, a child with a high threshold need in the movement system may be constantly on the move, constantly wiggling, jumping, and crashing. Another potential area of challenge in sensory processing involves sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is a misinterpretation of sensation, which usually results in a very low threshold trigger (small amounts of sensation) activating protective responses of flight/fright/fight to different sensations.

Sensory Integration Dysfunction may be observed by an unusual response to touching, being touched, moving, and being moved. When a child avoids typical sensations, or seeks excessive stimulation they may be at risk for a Sensory Integration or Sensory Processing Disorder.

What to expect from Sensory Integration Therapy

Through evaluation, a child’s strengths and challenges in the different sensory systems will be identified. A child may have either sensory defensiveness, sensory seeking behaviors, or both. An individualized treatment plan is created for each child. Play is a child’s work. It is through play that children can be engaged to interact with their environments, be motivated to challenge themselves, and participate in activities that will help them to perceive and respond to their environment. Since treatment is play-based, it may look like your child is simply playing. However, the process is very complex and interactive, with the therapist identifying specific sensory needs. The therapist is constantly adapting activities, presenting new challenges for the child, and integrating these activities with the child’s interests and self drives in mind. Through this process the child is then set up for improvements with self-regulation, postural control, praxis and sequencing, eye/hand coordination, fine motor skill development, social and emotional development, and academic learning.

The use of any one modality is very specific, and is paired with your child’s need, and what a given activity can provide for them. Your child will engage in movement activities which may include swings, trampoline, balance boards, and more. They will engage in “messy” play and other assorted tactile activities. All activities will be structured to engage your child at their sensory level, pushing them to their “just right” challenge and advancing as appropriate. Children who participate in Occupational Therapy enjoy “playing” in their sessions and are eager to return. If you have any questions about activities here at OT Connection, please ask!

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