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 organise 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 organise sensory information, to generate appropriate responses, is ‘Sensory Integration’. When there is difficulty in receiving, processing, organising 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.

sensory integration
sensory integration
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.

sensory integration SI
Overall impact of S.I. on a child receiving therapy
  • They show confidence with their play skills.
  • They show improved ability to access academic learning.
  • They show improved attention and focus on tasks.
  • They show change with their language processing and learning.
  • They develop skills to actively participate in activities with others.
  • They show improved social and emotional behavior.
  • They develop confidence in sensory exploration of the environment.
  • They develop self-esteem.
  • They show increased awareness and interaction with objects.
  • They develop fine motor, gross motor and visual-motor skills.
  • They develop motor planning skills.

The sense of Touch (Tactile), Body position (Proprioception) and Movement (Vestibular) lay foundations for the rest of the sensory systems.

sensory integration

Tactile System

The sense of touch 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/hypo-sensitive 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
  • Disliking towards teeth brushing and/or nail cutting.
Under-responsive may appear and is through behaviour where the child:
  • Is constantly touching textures, objects
  • Stands/leans too close to people
  • Has high tolerance for pain or doesn’t notice when hurt
  • Needs more intense tactile input to respond to touch

Proprioception

This sense tells us about the body’s position in space. Proprioception provides the brain continuous information about your body, so it can plan how to use the body to do things, such as – kick a ball, hold a pencil, eat with a spoon, etc.

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

  • Unawareness or lack of care for one’s own safety while playing.
  • Applying too much or too little pressure on objects. Eg- writing with too much pressure and leaving an impression on the next page.
  • Difficulty judging how far to move arms and legs for tasks like inserting arms into the sleeves, climbing or descending stairs, etc.
  • Frequently looking for opportunities to crash, throw, tear, pull or push things around.
  • Bumping into objects or people in the environment.
sensory integration SI
sensory integration SI

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.
sensory integration

Vestibular System

It is the sense that tells us about our body’s movement experiences. The effects from vestibular input can last longer than any other input.

Some behaviour depicted by children who are under responsive to vestibular input-
  • They have difficulty attending in a classroom.
  • They are constantly on the move and find it hard to sit in one place and focus for longer.
  • They have difficulty maintaining a calm – alert state.
  • They may enjoy being upside down or hesitant to even go on a swing.
  • They may be fearful of movement or spin a lot and still not get dizzy.
  • They have difficulty balancing
Behaviors depicted by children who are over responsive to vestibular input-
  • fearful of movement
  • hesitant on swings
  • difficulty balancing