WHAT IS SENSORY INTEGRATION?

Sensory Integration has become quite a buzz word lately. Parents and teachers are learning more about it and are suspecting it more and more in children these days. This is great, as we are picking up sensory difficult in more children, who would previously have slept through the cracks!

Sensory Integration, in essence, was defined by Jean Ayres as the organisation of our senses for use. It is a subconscious process of the brain. The brain is bombarded with numerous pieces of sensory information at all times of the day. The brain needs to localise, sort and organise these sensations and thus give meaning to them and decide which information to focus on. This then allows humans to behave and respond to various situations in a purposeful and meaningful way.


The process of Sensory Integration begins with the registration or detection of the sensation, after which the brain needs to organise or modulate its reaction and also perceive or discriminate the details of the sensation.

The senses include:

Touch

Sight

Smell

Hearing

Taste

Vestibular (gravity sense)

Proprioception (body position)

This sensory information goes to the brain, where it's organised and interpreted. The brain then forms a plan of action that allows us to have an adaptive response appropriate for the environmental demands.


For example, you hear a loud bang outside. Your brain receives this auditory information, organises and interprets it. It then decides whether it is dangerous and action needs to be taken, or whether it is irrelevant and can be ignored. This process prevents our nervous system from going into fright/flight unnecessarily. It also allows us to continue concentrating on the task at hand if it is something that can be ignored.

Children who experience sensory integration difficulties are unable to generate an adaptive response appropriate for the environmental demands. We often find that they under-respond or over-respond to sensory stimuli - but that's something I'll talk about in the next blog post!


Let me know what else you'd like me to blog about!

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