For most people sensory integration develops in the course of everyday childhood activities. When a person has good sensory integration then they can process information automatically and efficiently. But for some people, sensory integration does not develop as proficiently as it should and can affect activities of daily living, academic achievement, behaviour or social participation.
Sensory integration is a subconscious and automatic neurological process. Information is received from our senses of touch, sight, taste, smell, movement, body position, hearing and from the pull of gravity and information from our internal organs. Our brains take in this information through our senses and organise it so that we can respond appropriately to situations and environmental demands.
Children can present with different types of sensory integration difficulties (also referred to as sensory processing difficulties). Ayres™ Sensory Integration provides occupational therapists with a framework for assessing and treating children who present with the sensory integration difficulties.
There are many different ways an occupational therapist will use a sensory integration approach:
• Direct 1:1 therapy using specialised equipment
• Provision of a sensory diet and sensory based therapeutic activities for home and school to increase participation and regulation skills.
• Environmental adaptations at home and school
• Coaching carers and school staff
A quick word on our role with children with trauma or attachment disorders. A. Jean Ayres who pioneered and developed the theory of sensory integration spoke about the role of sensory processing in forming secure attachments. She described the importance of touch in facilitating regulation and forming healthy bonds with care givers. When working with our team, it is important for a parent or carer of an attachment disordered child to mention their concerns about attachment.
If performed sensitively in the right environment, occupational therapy can look a lot like play. The occupational therapist will design a sequence of activities while allowing the child to be in control. Activities are chosen to be fun and are designed to facilitate physical closeness and emotional connection between parent and child. We will use our knowledge, expertise and coaching skills to guide parents and carers in their play with children, enhancing positive experiences of shared joy and pleasure. So while we are addressing sensory integration difficulties, we can also be addressing attachment.
For the following books are great for further information on sensory integration:
• The Out of Sync Child (Carol Kranowitz)
• Building Bridges through Sensory Integration (Yack, Aquilla & Sutton)
• Can I tell you about Sensory Processing Difficulties (Sue Allen)
• Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers: Volume 1 (Angie Voss)