Sensory Integration Programs

What is the difference between Sensory Integration Dysfunction & Sensory Processing Disorder?

These terms are commonly confused. Sensory Integration is mainly used to describe the theory and treatment based off of the work done by Jean Ayres. Sensory processing disorder is used to describe and define the disorder and dysfunction symptoms.

What is Sensory Integration?​​

Sensory Integration is the normal, neurological, developmental process that begins in the womb and continues throughout one’s life. Our neurological system takes information in from the environment through our senses. This information will affect daily functioning, social and family relationships, behavioral challenges, regulating emotions, self-esteem, learning, and dealing with their every day challenges.

Typically, the brain organizes the information taken in from our senses which then enables us to use it and respond appropriately within the environment. The reactions to specific sensory input is about how this input is taken in, organized, and utilized to interpret one's environment and make the body ready to learn, move, regulate energy levels and emotions, interact, and develop properly.

If the neurological process becomes disrupted in a way that the brain does receive the sensory information, that the wrong information was sent, or the message was sent and received by the brain but the appropriate response was not formed, then the normal development and adaptive responses will not be achieved accordingly. It is the frequency, intensity, duration and functional impact of these symptoms which determines dysfunction.

Questions to ask yourself about your child's behavior:

  • Is my child an excessive risk taker, jumping and crashing into anything they can? 

  • Why can’t my child do puzzles, write well, or find the coordination for riding a bike or hitting a ball?

  • Why does my child cry or cover their ears with every loud sound (noise from TV in the other room, the vacuum, the telephone)?

  • Why doesn't my child like to be touched?

  • Why can't my child ever sit still?

  • Why will my child only eat the same foods?

  • Why will my child only wear certain clothes or need me to cut the tags out of their shirts? Why does my child despise wearing socks?

  • Why can’t I seem to calm my child or get them to sleep?

  • Why won’t my child put their hands in anything messy or use glue, Play Doh, or play with mud?

  • Why does my child fear playground equipment or being tipped upside down?

  • Why do crowded stores bother my child so much, leading to major meltdowns in public places?​


The Senses That  Affect Sensory Integration:

We are all familiar with the 5 senses:

Tactile: the sense of touch
Auditory: input relating to sounds
Oral: input relating to the mouth
Olfactory: input relating to smell
Visual: input relating to sight.

There are TWO MORE SENSES that some people may be unaware of:

Vestibularthe sense of movement; input from the inner ear about equilibrium, gravitational changes, movement experiences and position in space. Your inner ear is highly coordinated with the neck and back muscles and affects balance and coordination.

Proprioception: the sense of "position"; input from the muscles and joints about body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement and changes in position. Proprioception is where your body is in relation to space. 

When the
vestibular sense (gravity and movement) and proprioceptive sense (muscles and joints) are not work effectively, the child will display difficulty with eye movements, posture, balance, muscle tone, and gravitational insecurity.

Those difficulties will translate into difficulties with body perception, coordinating two sides of the body, motor planning, activity level, attention span, and emotional stability. When the tactile sense (touch) is not working effectively, the child may display difficulty with sucking and eating. Not integrating the tactile sense effectively may also impact the mother-infant bond and tactile comfort which is the ability to be hugged or touched without having a negative response.

These difficulties will also then lead to difficulties with activity level, attention span, and emotional stability, which then later leads to problems with purposeful activity. It is important to understand that if your child has difficulty integrating their senses, that these are some of the issues they may face.

Ultimately, the end result of these difficulties will lead to the inability to concentrate and organize, low self esteem, poor self control, and low self confidence. Academic learning ability is compromised, the capacity for abstract thought and reasoning may be lacking and specialization of each side of the body and brain can be affected. Remember, the more a child is motivated to participate in activities, the greater the chance that the child will persist in challenges that lead to improved function.