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Sensory Integration

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Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration is the neurological process in which the brain takes information from the senses and then processes it. 

The brain receives information from seven different sensory systems: sight (vision), auditory (hearing), gustatory (tasting), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch, pain, temperature, and vibration), vestibular (unconscious awareness of movement), and proprioception (unconscious awareness of body position in space). 

The brain either acts upon the information, disregards it as unimportant, or avoids the information altogether. The brain does this on an unconscious level millions of times per day. 

The way each person interprets and responds to information is individual. 

This process does not develop effectively for some individuals and they may over or under process information from any of the sensory areas. Some examples of behaviors suggesting possible sensory integration difficulties include:  

  • Extreme sensitivity to touch or sound. 

  • Insecurity when feet are not touching the ground.

  • Nausea caused by movement. 

  • Distraction caused by fluorescent lights or by high contrasts such as black type on white paper.   Difficulty maintaining eye contact or visual attendance to tasks.

  • The need to touch everything to learn about it. 

  • Inability to notice novel sounds in the environment unless they are repeated several times. 

  • Excessive movement, spinning and/or jumping. 

  • Fidgeting of hands

  • Impulsivity, distractibility   
  • Difficulty calming or unwinding

     

  • Clumsiness
  • Increased or decreased activity level
  • Poor self-concept
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Social difficulties

    Sensory Integrative problems are often associated with many disorders including Autism, learning disabilities, premature birth, substance abuse, stress related disorders and brain injury.

Tips for Responding to Sensory Integration

A parent or teacher needs to be aware of the child's environment and how the child is reacting to it. Examples of simple modifications that may help maximize the child's attention to tasks include: 

  • Turn the lights off to calm and turn them on to alert.

  • Reduce workplace of visual distraction.

  • Use an inclined surface to bring work close to the child's visual field.

  • Remove flickering lights.

  • Provide headphones with white noise or earplugs if a child is distracted by sound.

  • Place tennis balls on chair legs to eliminate scraping sound.

  • Utilize a dry erase board instead of chalkboard when possible.

  • Be aware of the loudness and animation of the adult.

  • Be aware if adult perfumes, lotions, hairspray or deodorants distract the child.

  • Avoid all light touch if the child is tactile defensive.

  • Respect the child's right to refuse certain activities, which have a tactile component or modify it if possible (paintbrush instead of fingers for shaving cream play).

  • Position the child at the beginning or end of the line to minimize bumping by other children.

  • Provide quiet fidget toys to hold in their hands.

  • Have a quiet area where the child can escape if they become overwhelmed.

  • For a child who does not discriminate textures well, provide a variety of textures prior to fine motor or handwriting activities.

  • Provide the child with a job (office runner) that allows increased movement throughout the day.

  • Provide two desks so the child can move between them through out the day. 

  • Complete a whole class warm up time throughout the day to increase attention including activities such as jumping jacks or cross crawls.

If you suspect that a child has a sensory integrative problem that is interfering with his daily ability to function, contact TCESC's Occupational & Physical Therapy Department at 330-505-2800 ext. 143 for an evaluation.

Contact Information

Susan Shutrump, supervisor, at 330-505-2800 ext. 143 or

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