What is Sensory Integration
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 their bodies, through movement, touch, taste, vision, smell, and sound. This stage in their development is crucial for development. 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.
Sensory Integration is a term that describes the brain’s ability to take in information from the environment and the senses, organize it, and respond to it during experiences of daily life. It is a process that helps mature the brain and develop the physical body.
The senses (sensory systems) lay critical foundations for normal development, impacting gross and fine motor development, speech and language production, social and emotional maturity, as well as behavior and learning.
Challenges with sensory integration can be classified in two main categories:
One group includes children who have difficulty modulating the information coming from the senses. These difficulties can affect the child’s arousal level, activity level, behavior, emotions, social participation and attention.
The next group includes children who have difficulty with the registration, discrimination and / or perception of sensory input (making sense of the input gathered though the senses) but this time it interferes with the acquisition or refinement of postural and motor skills. These children often times appear clumsy and/or their motor actions are not as fluid and accurate as those of other children. Difficulties with tolerance to frustration, attention and social participation are typical of these group children.
Sensory integration dysfunction can impact every aspect of development including:
- Gross and fine motor
- Adaptive and self-help
- Speech and language
- Attention and self-regulation
- Visual motor
- Visual spatial
- Perceptual and academic skills
Children with sensory processing difficulties are quick to identify activities which are difficult for them, or those who make them feel uncomfortable. These children usually refuse or avoid trying these tasks again. This might unfold into behavioral, social or emotional manifestations that take a toll in the child’s performance of typical occupations.
If you notice your child avoiding activities which most children enjoy, such as swinging, playing in the sand box, hugging their friends and family, participating in motor or social activities etc. an Occupational Therapy screening may be beneficial.