Sensory integration therapy aims to help children or adults with sensory processing issues.  Sensory processing issues can happen in any of the sensory systems.  The systems are visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, vestibular, proprioception, and interoception. 

Sensory integration is a term used to describe how we experience, interpret, react or ignore information coming from our senses.  Sensory integration is important in all aspects of our daily life.  In some people their sensory integration may be less well developed than others.  This can lead them to be sensory overloaded or under sensitive or both.  

With sensory integration therapy the end result is to help the brain adapt and allow the child to process and react to sensations more efficiently.  It is also to help improve the child’s ability to participate in activities.  The process will take time. Sensory processing difficulties are long term, and can affect day to day function.  Sensory integration therapy can help daily function.

Sensory integration therapy is provided by a trained occupational therapist.  The therapist will expose the child to sensory stimulation through repetition.  Repetition helps a child feel safe, and makes things feel less unpredictable.  The repetition will help your child’s nervous system to respond in a more organized way.  The repetition will also help a child to learn how to react to sensations and movement.  

Therapy and sensory diets will be used to help a child.  These can include a balance of treatments, movement therapy, structured exposure to sensory input and carefully picked physical activities and accommodations.

Physical activities could be stress balls or fidgets during the day at school. 

Accommodations are changes to daily life to help a person learn or get their work done.  The goal of accommodations is to use them to help a child make it through daily tasks that their sensory issues aren’t allowing them to do.  After a while of using these accommodations they will eventually be phased out and life can be done without them.  Examples of accommodations are wearing ear plugs or headphones, textured sponges, visual schedules, alternative seating such as stand up desk or an exercise ball, having available space for movement, advanced warning of schedule changes, or advanced warning to loud noises.  

In some instances of sensory integration therapy there will be some use of remedial intervention.  This involves the usage of sensory, motor activity, and equipment.  This could be something like swinging or having massages.  

A sensory diet may be used as part of the therapy treatment.  This is not a food diet.  A sensory diet is a list of sensory activities that your child would do on a daily basis.  These activities can be done at school or at home.  These diets are built for each individual child and are made specific to their needs.  Some things that can be changed to help fit your child best are frequency of how often they need a sensory activity in their day to be the most successful, intensity and duration of the activity needed, timing during the day of when the activities should be happening, and making sure there is play along with daily tasks involved in their sensory diet. 

Sensory diets can take some adjusting and fixing before they are perfect.  It is important to record behavior while trying out new things to see how well it is working, or what needs to be changed.  Some examples of things that could be on this sensory diet are taking a walk around the classroom at a certain time every day, having access to fidgets or headphones during class, rough and tumble play at home, or swinging every night before bed.  

Environmental modifications can be helpful as well with sensory issues.  Having white noise playing in the background can help a child who is sensory seeking.  Decreasing the amount of artwork or wall hangings may also be helpful if you have a child who is over stimulated by visual sensory.  If you have a child who struggles with tactile things, changing out the flooring in your home may also be helpful, or adding rugs on floors.  

Therapy can help a child with sensory processing difficulties and decrease the accommodations they need in their daily life to help them become more functional.  Sensory integration therapy can help both a child who struggles with sensory overload or under sensitivities.  Through remedial interventions, sensory diets, and accommodations there will be an individualized plan for each child to help them learn to cope with their sensory issues. 


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