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Sensory Integration

“…look at what the behaviour is trying to tell you, rather than looking at the behaviour as being negative or ‘bad’…”

SI

Sensory experience includes:

TOUCH SIGHT SOUND SMELL TASTE MOVEMENT BODY AWARNESS THE PULL OF GRAVITY

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize this information, and use it to participate in everyday activities.

The different parts of our body that receive sensory information from our environment (such as our skin, eyes and ears) send this information up to our brain. Our brain interprets the information it receives, compares it to other information coming in as well as to information stored in our memory and then the brain uses all of this information to help us respond to our environment. Therefore, sensory integration is important in all the things that we need to do (such as getting dressed, eating, socialising, learning and working).

Our understanding of sensory integration was initially developed in the late 60s and 70s by Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and psychologist with an understanding of neuroscience, working in the United States of America. Jean Ayres was interested in explaining how difficulties with receiving and processing sensory information from one’s body and environment could relate to difficulties at school or using one’s body to engage in everyday life.

The 8 Senses

In sensory integration we are interested in all 8 senses. You can probably immediately think of 5 – seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and the sense of touch.

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The other 3 are proprioceptionvestibular and interoception, these are defined below.

Proprioception

 Our muscles and joints have tiny sensory receptors that tell our brain where our body parts are. When you put a spoon to your mouth, you don’t need to look at the spoon to see where it is or feel for your mouth to know where to place the spoon; you know where your hand is in relation to your mouth. It is largely your proprioceptive receptors giving you this information. Your brain then uses this information to plan movements so that you can coordinate your body.

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Vestibular

In our inner ear we have small, fluid filled canals, the fluid in these canals moves every time we move our head. Receptors in these canals pick up the direction of movement and send this information on to our brain. So we know if we are moving forwards, backwards, side to side, tilting our head, turning round or moving up and down. Once again, our brain uses this information to plan for movements and help us maintain our balance.

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Interoception

Interoception: this is a fairly new area for discussion in sensory integration; interoception is how our body tells our brain what is going on inside our body, when we are hungry or feel full, when our heart is beating fast or when we have that sensation of butterflies in the stomach.

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Jean Ayres was particularly interested in the interaction between and development of the vestibular, proprioception, touch, vision, and hearing. She saw these as important in supporting our ability to use our body, concentrate and develop self-esteem and confidence as well as having self-control and academic skills.

For most children, Sensory Integration develops naturally in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of this process, as is the ability to adopt to incoming sensation. But, for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When this process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development and behaviour may become evident.

To be continued. Next, we will look at certain indicators that can signal a parent that sensory difficulties may be present as not all children with learning, developmental or behavioural problems have underlying sensory integration difficulties.

 

Prepared by:

Agnieszka Pietras

Learning Support teacher