SENSORY INTEGRATION & SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER
Sensory integration is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and the environment, which makes it possible to be effective and functional within the environment. Sensory integration is necessary for almost every activity in daily life, because of the continuous perception and organization of multiple sensory input is essential for us to comprehend our surroundings. Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a term that refers to the difficulty or inability of the nervous system to receive messages from the senses and turn them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. Whether you are brushing your teeth, biting into a sandwich, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation or "Sensory Integration."
Sensory systems transmit information arising from receptor structures in various bodily parts into the central nervous system (Brain). General sensations can be such as pain, touch and pressure, thermal sensation, etc. Other sensory systems compounds various special senses, such as vision, olfaction, hearing, input on muscle and joints (Proprioception), vestibular sense (Movement), and the information sent from internal organs (Interoception) bowels, stomach, lungs, etc.
HOW SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER AFFECTS ACTIVITIES OF DAILY LIVING?
- Sensory defensiveness (avoidance to different types of sensory input: Tactile, vestibular, propriocetpive, etc)
- Sensory seeking behaviors (Often disruptive to the individual and his/her environment).
- Difficulty learning self care activities.
- Difficulty to adapt to school, work, etc.
- Extreme anxiety when activities of daily living are facilitated: Oral hygiene, shower, shaving, dressing, changes in routine, etc.
- SIB’s (Self Injurious Behaviors). A Brain that is poorly organized sensory wise, might exhibit multiple SIB’s during daily routines.
Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder
Most individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) are just as intelligent as their peers. Many are intellectually gifted. Their brains are simply wired differently. They need to be taught in ways that are adapted to how they process information, and they need leisure activities that suit their own sensory processing needs. Once individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder have been accurately diagnosed, they benefit from a treatment program of occupational therapy (OT) with a sensory integration (SI) approach.
Treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder helps caregivers and others who live and work with individuals with SPD to understand that Sensory Processing Disorder is real, even though it might appear as behavioral problems, and the individual being misunderstood and often labeled as "different," "difficult", etc...With this assurance, they become better advocates for their clients, patients, and loved ones within the community.
SENSORY INTEGRATION APPROACHES
There are many SI approaches, and treatments within the scope of Occupational Therapy that can be very useful to individuals with SPD. Some of them are:
*Sensory desensitization techniques.
* Sensory play (Individually or in groups).
*ADL's routines and protocols for improved tolerance to self care.
* Holistic approaches such as Yoga for self regulation (Individually or in groups), mindfulness, art, aromatherapy, sound therapy, etc.
* Structure daily routines (After school, mealtime, leisure tasks exploration, etc).
The goal of Sensory Diets, sensory play, ADL’s routines, etc) is to foster appropriate responses to sensation in an active, meaningful, and fun way so the individual is able to learn how to organize sensations systematically and learn to behave without adverse reactions to sensory input.
Lastly, please know that Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), can be successfully treated; It will require evaluation and treatment from an experienced and skilled therapist in these area as it is considered an specialty in Occupational Therapy. There are many resources online on how to find skilled therapists in your area. The following are some organizations dedicated to the study, treatment and education of SPD:
STAR Institute (www.spdstar.org)
SPD support (www.spdsupport.org)
DPD Network (www.sinetwork.org)
Berenice Sansone ~Occupational Therapist.