Sensory Integration

Sensory Integration

What is Sensory Integration?

Our bodies take in sensory information everyday via the five commonly known senses: touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. In addition to these senses, there are two other lesser known senses which are extremely important. They are the proprioceptive and vestibular systems. Proprioception is the sensory information gathered from our muscles and joints. It helps us understand where our body is in space and helps determine how to move our body within our environment. It is this information that allows us to perform the coordinated and controlled movements needed to successfully complete daily tasks.

Closely related to the proprioceptive system is the vestibular system. The vestibular system is responsible for coordinating head, neck and eye movements, which are needed when copying information back and forth from the board in the classroom. It also affects the receptors related to maintaining posture, balance, bilateral integration, attention, arousal, and visual skills.

For most of us, the ability to integrate our five senses along with vestibular and proprioceptive information is innate. When there is a breakdown in or a misinterpretation of these senses, the results can severely affect an individual's ability to perform movements in a sustainable and well-coordinated manner. Thus, simple everyday tasks become more challenging for the child.

What can Sensory Processing Disorder look like at school?

Hypersensitive children (also called sensory defensiveness) might:
  • Cover their ears when there is too much noise in the classroom or become upset with noises such as fire alarms.

  • Become easily distracted by visual stimuli or classroom walls that have too much information on them.

  • Avoid standing in line or become disruptive if they are touched accidentally by another student. This touch is misinterpreted by the child and often the fight or flight response comes into effect.

  • Exhibit discomfort with clothing such as socks or tags in their shirts. Light touch is extremely uncomfortable for these children.

  • Avoid activities that require them to move their head in different directions. They might avoid activities in gym class or certain equipment on the playground. They may exhibit difficulty copying information from the board.

Hyposensitive children (also called sensory seeking) might:
  • Seek out constant movement such as spinning or shifting while in their seat. They may have difficulty staying in one position for long or have trouble participating in circle time.

  • Solicit deep pressure by constantly asking for hugs, or by bumping into peers while in line. These children often have difficulty with maintaining personal space and can be seen leaning against objects while sitting on the floor.

  • Exhibit difficulty grading the amount of force necessary to complete a task. They may throw a ball too far, put too much glue on an art project or press too hard when writing.

  • Constantly touch objects in their surrounding environment. They desire and enjoy different textures and will often find something to fidget with in their hands.


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