“Imagine driving a car that isn’t working well. When you step on the gas, the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes does not respond. When you blow the horn, it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else (Greenspan, 1995). ” This is precisely the way an individual with sensory integration disorder feels.
Individuals that have sensory integration disorders have a neurological disorder, which results from the brain’s inability to integrate certain information received from the body’s seven sensory systems(Miller & Lane, 2000). The tactile system is the sense of touch, which delivers information to our brain about size, shape, and texture of objects. The auditory system, the sense of hearing, permits us to identify the quality and direction of sounds. Visual system is the sense of sight, deciphers what we see, and guides our movement to ensure safety.
Gustatory and olfactory systems permit us to taste and smell foods and objects. The vestibular system is the sense of balance, ensuring the bodies equilibrium. Lastly, the proprioception system gives us the awareness of our body’s position and movement. Sensory integration disorder obstructs the individuals able to attend, participate, and learn in the classroom/school environment or at home on a consistent basis. An individual diagnosed with sensory integration disorder may appear clumsy or troublesome since the individual cannot consciously control their motor skills or attention responses.
Individuals may seem slow to learn, passive, or over-aroused, challenging or hyperactive (Lane, Miller & Hanft, 2000). Sensory integration therapy can help improve ‘the way the brain processes and organizes sensations,’ by supplying the vital sensory input and experiences, the individual with sensory integration disorder needs to learn and grow (Mauer, 1999). Sensory integration therapy can help individuals cope and live with sensory integration disorders. Research suggest that Sensory Integration
Therapy can help individuals with Sensory Integration Disorders because of the retraining of an individual’s general motor skills, the reorganization of sensory information, and that it strengthens the cognitive skills. Building and retraining individuals’ general motor skills can be very helpful for individuals with sensory integration disorder. Motor skills are motions carried out when the brain, nervous systems, and muscles work together. Allowing individuals’ to develop the ability to imitate, gain a sense of security during movement, helps the individual to become aware of each side of their body.
The type of therapy that is used in retraining of general motor skills usually looks like ‘playtime’ – a collection of games that helps children better collect and process sensory information(Dennison & Dennison, 1994). When introducing individuals to therapy that focus on motor skills, thinking of motor planning is essential. Motor planning is the capability of the brain to comprehend, organize, and transmit sequences of unfamiliar actions as required when learning new abilities. Activities that have a goal for the individuals to achieve help the brain to develop motor planning skills.
Motor skills’ training consists of adaptive physical education and movement education. It aids in stimulating hemispheric and bilateral integration. Therapy helps individuals respond accurately and appropriately to sensory data. An example of a type of therapy used for sensory integrations is a program call Brain Gym. Brain Gym helps individuals learn to move eyes, hands, and body in concert, so that integration is an automatic choice. Brain Gym is a series of simple and enjoyable movements that enhance the individuals’ experience of whole brain learning (Dennison & Dennison, 1994).
The program helps build awareness concerning the importance of movement in daily life, helps the individual emphasize the capability to notice, reply to movement based needs, and helps encourage self-responsibility. The key principle in Brain Gym is to empower each participate to take responsibility of their own learning and encourage creativity and self-expression (Dennison & Dennison, 1994). Sensory integration therapies that focus on the retraining of the general motor skills help individuals to respond accurately and appropriately to sensory data by training the brain to filter out sensitivity.
Next, sensory integration therapy can help these individuals by reorganizing sensory information. Sensory information is the information that the brain gathers from our senses. The information collected from the sensory receptors, then sent through the neural pathways to the brain where processed, so it can be understood (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). The importance of this in sensory integration therapy is that it allows individuals to discover how to receive information and express themselves simultaneously.
One way to do this is by giving each individual a Sensory Diet. Sensory Diets provide the necessary combination of sensory input to ‘feed or nourish’ an individual’s nervous system (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). A sensory diet can calm an over-stimulated or active child, while increasing the activities of an under stimulated passive child. Sensory diets can help prevent uncomfortable reactions to sensory inputs along with reducing sensory seeking behaviors while increasing productive from child and teaching the child self-regulation (About SPD, 2012).
A sensory diet consists of planned and scheduled activity programs, with each diet designed and developed to meet the needs of the individuals’ nervous system that stimulates the ‘near’ senses with a combination of alerting, organizing, and calming techniques. The individuals’ motivation in the selection of the activities is a key principle to the success of the therapy (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). By allowing, the individual to be actively involved and exploring activities provides sensory experiences that are the most beneficial to them.
Individuals become more mature and efficient at organizing sensory information. A great example of a program that helps to reorganize sensory information through activities is “How Does Your Engine Run”. The programs designed to teach the individuals, parents, and educators how to reorganize arousal states as they relate to attention, learning, and behavior (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). Finally yet importantly, the strengthening of the cognitive skills is a key concept to sensory integration therapy.
Cognitive also called mental skills are the skill our brains use to learn, adapt, processes, interrupts and functions correctly (Wright, 2010). Without good cognitive skills, individuals with sensory integration disorder will struggle with educational and social achievements, increasing their risks of low self-esteem and relationships issues in the future. Through a growing body of evidence from the American Occupational Therapy Association shows that a majority of individuals with sensory integration disorder actually
have one or more weaknesses in cognitive skills (Zimmer & Desch, 2012). Through building and strengthening cognitive skills, such as attention, auditory and visual processing, memory, processing speed, logic, reasoning and comprehension, all which are necessary skills needed to tackle sensory integration disorder, an individual can reach their full potential. “Like building blocks, an individuals’ performance depends on a well-developed nervous system at each level (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996).
” Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger formalized the Pyramid of Learning, highlighting the impact that sensory integration can have on higher level functioning. Therapy can help the individual with academic success, emotional balance, and social awareness. There are the four foundational levels of sensory integration. Each level requires mastery for solid progression to the next level, without mastery developmental delays can occur from gaps in the preliminary foundation of sensory integration. The first level of the pyramid is the sensory processing level is where individuals develop perceptions of the world around us.
Our seven sensory systems are regulated by our vestibular system, all the sensory inputs come into our body and gets registered in the vestibular and then quickly sent on to a higher cortex level of the brain then the cortex quickly responds to the stimuli. Sensory Motor is the second level as the sensory systems become integrated, the individual develops the ability to imitate, gain security during movement, learns to filter irrelevant input, and became aware of each side of the body. The third level is the Perceptual Motor, where the individuals’ central nervous systems efficiently process the sensory input in their environment.
They will develop visual and auditory attention, language skills, and hand-eye coordination. The final level in the Pyramid of Learning is the Cognition Level, which requires a solid foundation in all the lower levels in the development. At this level, the individual will have the ability to concentrate, develop organizational skills, self-esteem, self-control, and self-confidence. In conclusion, sensory integration disorder affects 5 to 10% of individuals without disabilities and 40 to 80% of individuals with other diagnosed disabilities.
By providing these individuals to obtain a form of sensory integration therapy, it provides them with sensory information that will assist in organizing vestibular, tactile, and proprioceptive systems so that individuals can develop higher functioning abilities through the retraining of general motor skills, the reorganization of sensory information, and the strengthening of cognitive skills. Sensory Integration Therapy covers all the aspects of the Pyramid of Learning; this proves that therapy is beneficial to individuals with Sensory Integration Disorders.
References Dennison, P. E. , & Dennison, G. E. (1994). Brain gym (teacher’s edition). Ventura, CA: Edu-Kinesthetics. Greenspan, S. I. (1995). You’re not the cause, but you can be the solution. The challenging child (pg. 4). Reading, MA: Addison-Westly Publishing Company. Hanft, B. E. , Miller, L. J. , & Lane, S. J. (2000, September). Toward a consensus in terminology in sensory integration theory and practice: Part 3: Observable behaviors: Sensory integration dysfunction. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 23, 1-4.
Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www. spdnetwork. org/pdf/TowardConsesus-Part3. pdf Lane, S. J. , Miller, L. J. , & Hanft, B. E. (2000, June). Toward a consensus in terminology in sensory integration theory and practice: Part 2: Sensory integration patterns of function and dysfunction. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 23, 1-3. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www. spdnetwork. org/pdf/TowardConsesus-Part2. pdf Mauer, D. M. (1999). Issues and Applications of Sensory Integration Theory and Treatment with Children with Language Disorders.
Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools (30); 383-392. Miller, L. J. , & Lane, S. J. (2000, March). Toward a consensus in terminology in sensory integration theory and practice: Part 1: Taxonomy of neurophysiological processes. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 23, 1-4. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www. spdnetwork. org/pdf/TowardConsesus- Part1. pdf Williams, M. S. , & Shellenberger, S. (1996). How Does Your Engine Run? : A Learners Guide to the Alert Program for Self-Regulation. Albuquerque, NM: TherapyWorks, Inc. Wright,A.
(2010). Sensory integration therapy. Cerebra. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www. cerebra. org. uk/SiteCollectionDocuments/Research%20PDF’s/Sensory%20Integration%2 0Therapy. pdf Zimmer, M. , & Desch, L. (May, 2012). Sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorder. Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 129, 1186-1189. doi: 10. 1542/peds. 2012-0876 About SPD. (2012). Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation: Research, Education and Advocacy. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://www. sinetwork. org