Sensory Integration (SI) Therapy

Sensory Integration (SI) Therapy is a play based, child-guided therapy that
promotes learning, behavior, social and emotional development, and motor performance in children. SI therapy helps to improve one’s ability to organize and process incoming sensory information appropriately to interact with the environment in meaningful ways.

We at REACH, are a team of therapists trained in Ayres SI to help children with
Sensory Processing Dysfunctions (SPD). Sensory integration therapy aids children with SPD
to be able to have an optimally integrated sensory system; to help bridge the gap.

What is Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Dysfunction?

The ability to process and organize sensory information, to generate appropriate responses, is ‘Sensory Integration’. When there is difficulty in receiving, processing, organizing and/or responding to sensory information, it leads to Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD).

The objective of SI therapy is to enhance the brain’s capacity to process and integrate sensory information, and give a more appropriate response. Through graded sensory experiences, therapy helps in developing new or alternate neural connections, which in turn promote learning and development.

What is Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Dysfunction?

The ability to process and organize sensory information, to generate appropriate responses, is ‘Sensory Integration’. When there is difficulty in receiving, processing, organizing and/or responding to sensory information, it leads to Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD).

The objective of SI therapy is to enhance the brain’s capacity to process and integrate sensory information, and give a more appropriate response. Through graded sensory experiences, therapy helps in developing new or alternate neural connections, which in turn promote learning and development.

Overall impact of S.I. on a child receiving therapy
  • Improved play skills, spontaneous exploration
  • Active participation with others and other forms of engaged behavior
  • Improved social and emotional behavior
  • Increased sensory exploration of the environment
  • Increased self-esteem
  • More engagement in purposeful activity and organization of behavior
  • Improved language
  • Improved ability to access academic learning
  • Increased awareness and interactions with objects
  • Improved fine motor, gross motor and visual-motor skills
  • Improved motor planning

Tactile System

The tactile system lays the foundation for all other systems.

It is the first means of communication and interaction a child experiences and explores on an emotional, sensory as well as motor level. It forms a means of connection and acts as a bridge between an individual and his environment. When there is a dysfunction related to the tactile sense, we may find kids or adults either over responsive/hypersensitive to touch or under responsive/hyposensitive to touch.

Over sensitivity maybe observed and manifested in behaviour e.g.
  • irritability or withdrawal when touched
  • avoidance of certain textures of clothes or foods
  • dislike towards teeth brushing and/or nail cutting.
Under-responsive may appear and is through behaviour where the child:
  • needs more intense tactile input to respond to touch
  • constantly touching textures, objects
  • stands/leans too close to people
  • has high tolerance for pain or doesn’t notice when hurt

Proprioceptive System

This sense tells us about the body’s position in space. This is processed through joint receptors and muscles all over our body that helps us to know where our body parts are without having to look and think consciously. Proprioception provides the brain continuous information about your body, so it can plan how to use the body to do things. This sensory system is important for coordinating movements and motor planning – kicking a ball, holding a pencil, eating with a spoon, etc. It gives us a secure and good sense of body awareness.

Proprioceptive input is obtained either actively through active and resistive work – climbing a ladder, navigating through a jungle gym; or passively through high impact deep pressure activities – cuddling, squeezing, crashing, etc.

This input is generally organizing and can help improve attention, arousal level, body awareness and motor planning.

When there is a dysfunction related to proprioceptive system, some of the behaviour or mannerisms seen are

  • Poor body awareness, floppy or poor posture
  • Crashing or bumping into objects, prefers heavy physical activities
  • Holds pencil or crayons too lightly to make a clear impression or too hard so that the written work is very dark
  • Difficulty judging how far to move arms and legs for tasks like inserting arms into the sleeves, climbing or descending stairs, etc.

Proprioceptive System

This sense tells us about the body’s position in space. This is processed through joint receptors and muscles all over our body that helps us to know where our body parts are without having to look and think consciously. Proprioception provides the brain continuous information about your body, so it can plan how to use the body to do things. This sensory system is important for coordinating movements and motor planning – kicking a ball, holding a pencil, eating with a spoon, etc. It gives us a secure and good sense of body awareness.

Proprioceptive input is obtained either actively through active and resistive work – climbing a ladder, navigating through a jungle gym; or passively through high impact deep pressure activities – cuddling, squeezing, crashing, etc.

This input is generally organizing and can help improve attention, arousal level, body awareness and motor planning.

When there is a dysfunction related to proprioceptive system, some of the behaviour or mannerisms seen are

  • Poor body awareness, floppy or poor posture
  • Crashing or bumping into objects, prefers heavy physical activities
  • Holds pencil or crayons too lightly to make a clear impression or too hard so that the written work is very dark
  • Difficulty judging how far to move arms and legs for tasks like inserting arms into the sleeves, climbing or descending stairs, etc.

Vestibular System

It is the sense that tells us about our body’s ability to sense speed and direction of movement with respect to gravity. Vestibular input is obtained from movement of the body and changes in the head position. It also helps us to stay upright against gravity. Movement can change an individual’s attention, arousal and alertness in the shortest period of time. The effects from vestibular input can last longer than any other input.

Some behaviour depicted by children who are under responsive to vestibular input-
  • does not get dizzy even when other peers may
  • enjoys being upside down or sideways
  • enjoys jumping and spinning
Behaviors depicted by children who are over responsive to vestibular input-
  • fearful of movement
  • hesitant on swings
  • difficulty balancing