Sensory integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities.
Most people are familiar with five senses sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. However, we also receive input through two additional senses:
The vestibular sense, or movement and balance sense, gives us information about where our head and body are in space. It allows us to stay upright while we sit, stand, and walk.
Proprioception, or body awareness sense, tells us where our body parts are relative to each other. It also gives us information about how much force to use in certain activities, allowing us to crack open an egg without crushing it in our hands.
Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, smell, taste and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organizing and interpreting this information is called Sensory Integration. Sensory Integration (SI) provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour.
For most Children, Sensory Integration for children is developed during the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of this process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But, for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When this process is disordered, some problems in learning, development, and behaviour may become evident.
Not all children with learning, developmental or behavioural problems have underlying sensory integration difficulties. There are certain indicators, however, that can signal a parent that such difficulties may be present.
Sensory motor skills acquisition is based on a child’s ability to integrate and process sensory information to elicit a physical response to the environment. Sensory integration and processing is a complex function of the nervous system. Imbalances or dysfunctions in any of these systems may result in sensory integration difficulties. For instance, the impaired ability to visually scan the environment successfully or process tactile information correctly may result in a child lacking the ability to move about safely at home or school.
Children could have sensory integration difficulties for a variety of reasons. Children who have cerebral palsy, are classified as cognitively delayed and are autistic frequently have sensory integration difficulties. Indicators of sensory integration difficulties include over or under sensitivity to movement or physical contact, abnormally high or low activity levels, difficulty learning new motor tasks, and delays in language acquisition or cognitive abilities
A bright child may know that some tasks are more difficult than others but may not know why. This child can often present as bored, lazy or unmotivated. Some children develop strategies to avoid those tasks that are hard or embarrassing. When this happens, the child may be considered troublesome or stubborn. When a problem is difficult to understand, parents and children may blame themselves.