When your child gets diagnosed with Autism it is very easy to get overwhelmed with all the new language, lingo, and abbreviations. We may hear lots of terms that sound big and intimidating including "Sensory Integration." In my blog this week I want to describe Sensory Integration in a way that makes sense and is easy to understand. By the end of the blog post, I hope you can make sense of the word "Sensory Integration" and see it's importance and it's role in your child's daily life. This is a 2-part blog post, so make sure to come back next week for the 2nd part of this blog where I will discuss what we can do if we have a child who has difficulty with sensory integration.
I would like to start this blog with some book excerpts from Dr. Jean Ayres. Dr. Jean Ayres was an Occupational Therapist who developed Sensory Integration Theory and laid the foundation and groundwork for Sensory Integration Occupational Therapy in her foundational book “Sensory Integration and the Child.”
To quote Dr. Ayres, “Sensory integration is the process of organizing sensory inputs so that the brain produces a useful body response and also useful perceptions, emotions, and thoughts” (Ayers, 2005).
"Sensory Integration is the organization of sensations for use. Our senses give us information about the physical conditions of our body and the environment around us...The brain must organize all of our sensations if a person is to move and learn and behave in a productive manner” (Ayers, 2005).
Sensory Integration is something that we all do constantly on a daily basis, and we typically don’t even notice our bodies doing it.
We are constantly getting bombarded with sensory input – what we see, hear, smell, touch, taste, and feel. In addition our brain is getting input on how our body is moving and what our body is doing. Our brain’s job is to take all of that input/sensory information, quickly make sense of it, and then tell us what to do with this information. Our brain can then answer questions such as: is my environment safe? are there any threats? do I need to turn my head and look at a sound? do I need to be aware of anything? etc. This process will then repeat itself with the next batch of sensory information it receives, and our brains will continue this process of receiving and responding to sensory input throughout the day.
There are so many things happening in our brain during this process of sensory integration that happen very quickly. If our children have difficulty with sensory integration it can affect how quickly their brain can respond to sensory input and how it makes decisions based on the sensory input it receives. If our children have difficulty with sensory integration they may receive the same sensory input everyone else is receiving, they just may perceive it differently and they may perceive new or unknown sensory inputs as threats. In addition, it is also a possibility that our children may process sensory information differently than other people. As a result, they may require more or less sensory input to make sense of our environment and the world around us.
Make sure to come back to http://www.goflowoccupationaltherapy.com/blog next week for the 2nd part of this blog where I will discuss what we can do if a child has difficulty with sensory integration.
As always, if you have any specific questions or anything you would like me to write about please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you soon!
Michael Jankowski, MS, OTR/L
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