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What is sensory integration?


Sensory integration is the organisation of sensory input for use in interpreting information about the body and its surroundings. The majority of children receive sensory signals in the normal way, but their brains are unable to organise the information. Some children may be over (hyper-) sensitive and avoid input, whilst others may be under (hypo-) sensitive and seek input.


Sensory integration therapy aims to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processing and co-ordinating sensory information input from tactile (touch), vestibular (movement sense), proprioceptive (body position sense), visual (sight), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste) systems.


Sensory Integration Therapy

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Through sensory integration, many parts of the brain work together so that a person can interact with the environment effectively and experience appropriate achievement in daily activities. Sensory integration therapy provides controlled sensory input with the goal of increased adaptive behaviours/responses. A strong basis in sensory integration enhances development of higher level gross and fine motor skills. It also contributes to better self-esteem, self-control and improved attention span.

Sensory intergration therapy may tone down sensitivity, or stimulate responses accordingly. The brain’s plasticity can develop new neural pathways as a result of the repetition of exercises used to overcome sensitivities. Responses to light, sound, smells, co-ordination and balance, and new motor sequences may be learned.

Individual exercises are designed to train a child to filter out sensitivity to clothing by working with different textures, or to tolerate being touched by another person, both of which are problems for some children with autism, for example.

Signs of sensory dysfunction include:

• Physical clumsiness
• Difficulty learning new movements
• Activity level unusually high or low
• Poor body awareness
• Inappropriate response to touch, movements, sights or sounds