Sensory Integration, Sensory Occupational Therapy and SPD

 

Sensory Integration is the process by which the brain organises and interprets the information it receives from the environment (via the sense organs) and from inside the body. It provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour.


For most children sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. This is known as Sensory Processing Disorder [SPD] or dysfunction in sensory integration. SPD is quite a common disorder (occurring in about 10% of the population) and is particularly noticeable in children on the autistic spectrum and with other developmental disorders. Processing problems can occur across only one or two or across all of the following senses:

 

  • Vestibular - movement and balance sense

  • Tactile - Sense of touch

  • Proprioception - Sense of where the body is when not looking

  • Vision - What we see

  • Olfactory - What we smell

  • Gustatory - What we taste

  • Auditory - What we hear

  • Interoceptive sense - Information received from inside the body that regulates functions such as body temperature, heart rate, hunger and thirst, need for the toilet

 

This leads to a number of problems in learning, motor skills and behaviour.


Some signs of SPD include:

  • Physical clumsiness

  • Difficulty learning new movements

  • Activity level unusually high or low

  • Poor body awareness

  • Inappropriate response to touch, movements, sights or sounds

  • Poor self esteem

  • Social and/or emotional difficulties, lack of cooperation

  • Distractibility, impulsivity, limited attention control

  • Delays in speech, language and/or motor skills

  • Specific learning difficulties and/or perceptual difficulties

  • Poor self-care skills

  • Delays in academic achievement

 

 

Sensory Integration Therapy For Children


If a child is suspected of having SPD, an assessment can be carried out by a relevantly qualified therapist who has taken post-graduate training in sensory integration. Assessments usually consist of both standardised testing and structured observation of posture, balance and coordination as well as responses to their sensory environment.

Sensory integration (SI) therapy is a specific form of occupational therapy involving the use of suspended equipment in a sensory rich environment. It uses enhanced sensory in-put combined with planned motor out-put through which a child experiences success.


SI therapy aims to improve the way a child's brain responds to and makes use of sensory information and how this is used to plan, co-ordinate and organise movement. It also aims to improve the child’s ability to regulate their emotional responses and arousal level leading to a calming of overemotional behaviour and reduced anxiety. It is fun, motivating and highly enjoyable and has a positive effect on the child’s self-confidence and self-esteem.    


One important aspect of therapy is that the motivation of the child plays a crucial role in the selection of the activities. Most children tend to seek out activities that provide sensory experiences which will be beneficial to them at that point in their development. It is this active involvement and exploration that enables the child to become a more mature, efficient organizer of sensory information.

To the child and parent as an observer, the therapy session should seem like just playing. To the therapist it will be specifically designed to match and develop your child's nervous system needs.

 

Specific skills training is not usually the focus of this therapy approach. When using a sensory integration model, the aim of therapy is to address the underlying conditions, rather than teaching a specific task.


Combined with conventional occupational therapy approaches according to the needs of the child, SI therapy can have a significant impact on performance and lead to improvements in behaviour, concentration, coordination, fine and gross motor skills, personal organisation and speech, social and academic skills.
 

Not sure where
to start?

 

Discuss your child's needs and get expert advice from Kids In Sync founder, Jacqui Penny, via telephone consultation.

Kids In Sync

Children's Therapy Centre

11 Hadley Grove

Barnet EN5 4PH

020 8441 3201

info@kidsinsync.com

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