A: Sensory integration is the process by which our body receives sensory information from the environment (and from within our own body) and then how the brain interprets and uses this information to help us respond to our environment. Children with sensory integration (sometimes referred to as sensory processing) difficulties can experience too much or too little stimulation through the senses and they can then over or under react to that stimulation.
Their brain may have difficulty with giving meaning to the information it is receiving. If these problems are with proprioception (sense of touch), a person can seem clumsy or use too much or too little force when doing things. People with visual perceptual problems may have difficulties with finding objects in cluttered environments, or finding a word on a page.
People with sensory integration difficulties can experience sensory overload, which can be very overwhelming and distressing. You may be familiar with your child experiencing a melt-down after being in a highly-stimulating environment.
Your OT will be able to explain more about how your child’s sensory integration challenges will specifically affect him. If they are not qualified in sensory integration therapy, they may refer you to a trained Sensory Integration Therapist who can assess your child, deliver SI therapy and provide recommendations for how you can help your child at home and school. For many people with SI difficulties, small adjustments to their environment or to the way they are allowed to move at school or at work can make a huge difference to how they manage their day to day life.
Your SI Therapist can help you learn more about sensory integration, what the triggers are for your individual child, and design a ‘sensory diet’ routine specific to your child and your family.
Receiving a new diagnosis can be confusing and stressful time. This is a useful article (focused on ASD) on how to adjust parental and sibling expectations and also advice on how to build in time to maintain relationships, family traditions and a social life. Recent research reveals that many parents and carers can feel very lonely: reach out to others for support (such as our online community for parents) and information on practical local resources such as sensory-friendly events.
Have you got an SI question for us on Eating and Sensory Issues? Drop us an email and your question could feature in the August edition of EmphaSIze.