Sensory Integration otherwise known as Sensory Processing refers to the way our body system process and interpret sensations from our body and/or environment. In other words, sensory processing helps us to identify and give meaning to perceptions or physical things we come in contact with on a daily basis.
When a child or an individual is unable to appropriately receive or process sensory information, then he or she is said to be having a sensory integration disorder.
Basically, there are 7 sensory systems and each performs a specific set of functions. They include proprioception, vestibular, tactile, auditory, olfactory, oral, and visual.
The Proprioceptive System (Position Sense)
This system controls how we perceive and react to our body position in space, the timing of movements, and the amount of force we are exerting during activities. In other words, this system is critical in developing motor skills and bodily awareness. It is the proprioceptive system which helps a child to maintain focus when performing certain activities or tasks.
Examples of activities or tasks that require the proper functioning of our proprioceptive system include pushing a chair or wall, swimming, carrying books, riding a bicycle, and other pulling activities such as playing tug of war.
While we require our proprioceptive system to be able to perform these activities, engaging in such activities can also help in the development of your child’s proprioceptive system.
The Vestibular system (Movement Sense)
The vestibular system helps us in maintaining proper balance and posture. The vestibular system also controls the way our body reacts to changes in movement. For children with irregular vestibular system, it is difficult to react properly to changes in their body position. This means that such a child may overreact or underreact to such changes.
Examples of activities or tasks that require the proper functioning of our vestibular system include log rolling, jump rope, swinging and somersaulting, spinning using a swivel chair, slow rocking, and many others.
The Tactile system (Sense of Touch)
The tactile system helps us to identify the location of a touch, the degree of pain and temperature, and amount of pressure exerted on any part of our body. This system is necessary for developing fine motor skills and helps us to recognize the different sizes and shapes of objects as well as textures of objects that we touch or come in contact with.
Examples of activities or tasks that require the proper functioning of our tactile system include lotion massage, playing with sand, water or grains, hugging, playing with hand fidget toys, and so on.
The Auditory system (Sense of Sounds)
As the name implies, the auditory system helps us to identify, interpret and respond appropriately to sounds in our environment. A child having auditory system disorder may find it impossible recognizing and interpreting sounds appropriately.
Examples of activities or tasks that require the proper functioning of our auditory system include the use of headphones or earphones, singing/humming, labeling sounds, and listening to music.
This is responsible for processing the tastes and textures of different substance inside the mouth.
Examples of activities or tasks that require the proper functioning of our oral system include recognizing the difference in taste and texture – sweet, sour, spicy, cold food, hot food, hard food, crunchy, gummy candy, and so on.
The olfactory system is responsible for processing odors. In other words, it has to do with our sense of smell. An individual with a disordered olfactory system may not be able to tell the scent of a lavender scent from that of a lime.
The Visual system
This has to do with our eyes and how we see the environment. It has nothing to do with a child’s ability or inability to see, rather how he or she sees things. In other words, having a problem with the visual system doesn’t mean that the child is blind but the that he or she interprets lights, images, and other visual things differently.
Why Sensory Integration Therapy Matters
Early intervention is important if you suspect that your child may be having any kind of sensory integration disorder.
Seeking the help of an experienced occupational therapist can go a long way in helping the child develop properly through therapeutic interventions. Have more questions about sensory integration therapy, feel free to contact us today.