Sensory Integration Online Event
Education

Sensory Integration Virtual Event

Our fourth event in the Caregiver Lifestyle Series focused on Sensory Integration (SI) therapy. We had an interest in this therapy when our daughter was born but then neglected it because we mistakenly thought physical therapy and occupational therapy needed to have exclusive attention for our daughter. However, we later learned SI is an integral part of the treatment plan.

Improving your child’s sensory processing allows them to better interact with their environment and make sense of everything happening around them. This translates into greater success in other therapy sessions.

Our sensory integration experience

After we learned our daughter had aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency, we understood more about what was happening in her body. She would scream at a new face, become agitated transitioning spaces or environments, and the slightest change in temperature or sensation could trigger her into a crying fit.

We found a clinic in Taiwan that helped explain sensory integration, and we took her to some classes. We did not expect the results to be instantaneous, but we left the session thinking okay, this is good but let’s focus on the important activities first.

However, AADC deficiency children have many more challenges, including some that are life-threatening, so crying and anxiety did not seem important. We decided to focus on other therapies and left sensory integration.

Our daughter would cry and scream during physical and occupational therapy, even before beginning the session. The fright of a new environment, the people in the waiting room, and the uncertainty. We wasted expensive minutes of each therapy session trying to get her to calm down.

Later, we began sensory integration sessions consistently. Over time, her anxiety decreased, and her mood improved. She performed better during therapy sessions, and everyday life was better. She was able to make more progress because we were supporting her in processing her sensory issues.

Please view our entire virtual presentation at the end of this page or on our YouTube Teach RARE Channel.

Supporting How Our Daughter Experiences The World

Sensory integration helped us improve how our daughter interacts with the world which led to greater progress.

Sensory integration therapist

Sensory integration (SI) therapy aims to help kids with sensory processing issues or sometime referred to as sensory integration disorder (SPD). By exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way. The theory behind it is that over time, the brain will adapt and allow kids to process and react to sensations more efficiently.

SI therapy should be provided by a specially trained occupational therapist (OT). The OT determines through a thorough evaluation whether your child would benefit from SI therapy. In traditional SI therapy, the OT exposes a child to sensory stimulation through repetitive activities.

Ms. Annie

Occupational Therapist and Director of IM OT Clinics

Ms. Annie has a long list of accolades and accomplishments. If attendees have further questions, you can reach out directly to connect with her or visit IM OT Clinic. Ms. Annie and her team are dedicated to supporting children of all backgrounds including rare diseases.

What is sensory integration?

Occupational therapist A. Jean Ayres developed sensory integration therapy in the 1970s to help children with sensory-processing difficulties. It was specifically designed to treat Sensory Processing Disorder.

Sensory processing is an active and selective process. We can choose to devote attention or neglect at the same time. Furthermore, we react effectively and functionally.

SI develops rapidly before 7 years old. Sensory integration starts from birth. A newborn can see, move hands and feet and these skills continue to develop in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor skills development is a natural process where a child adapts to incoming sensations. For most children, sensory integration is a process that develops as they grow. For some, these senses do not develop as quickly as they should.

A child’s inability to manage their senses can lead to cognition, motor, and behavior dysfunction if not addressed.

Seven senses

To better understand this phenomenon, we need to look at the sensory system of the body. There are 7 senses that help us process and respond to the world around us. The senses of visual (sight), auditory (sound), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) are the most commonly understood. In our presentation, we focused on the , and tactile (touch), proprioceptive (kinetics), and vestibular (balance).

Tactile Sensory Integration Activities

Tactile

This is the sense that interprets information coming into the body by the skin. The skin has receptors that receive touch sensations like pressure, pain, and heat. The development of this sense may look like a messy room or situations where a child has strewn through toys or different textures such as sand or water and has made a ‘mess’. This sense is why children react very quickly, either positively or negatively, to touch.

Vestibular Sensory Integration Activities

Vestibular

This sense dictates balance and movement and works together with the proprioceptive sense. The vestibular system uses the inner ear to receive information about movement, direction changes, and gravity. Without balance, it is hard to walk or maintain a good posture. The vestibular sense is also responsible for visual tracking, how a child maintains a steady visual image of a moving object, or repeatedly reading words.

Proprioceptive Sensory Integration Activities

Proprioception

The kinetics or the ability to interpret sensations of movement from our body. The body uses information from nerves to convey messages about the position and movement through muscle contractions, straightening, pulling, and other movements. This sense is responsible for telling the brain what position the body is in and translates to how alert a child’s mind in the environment and how they respond with personal or physical boundaries.

Keep in mind that your child should practice each type of sensory integration activity, but you can work on some types more than others depending on your child’s needs.

Tip

Tactile Activities

Tactile activities are sensory exercises that practice and utilize the sense of touch.

Tactile Activities

1.) Play in a sandbox
2.) Play with shaving cream on a cookie sheet or in the bathtub
3.) Finger-paint
4.) Play with play dough
5.) Mystery box of items

Proprioceptive Activities

Proprioceptive activities increase awareness of the body’s muscles, joints, and ligaments. Proprioceptive sensory integration activities engage and calm overactive kids who fidget or makes drowsy children more alert.

Proprioceptive Activities

1.) Digging or sand play
2.) Lifting weights or toys
3.) Dancing or Yoga
4.) Cleaning or Chores
5.) Hiking outdoors

Vestibular Activities

Vestibular sensory activities improve the sense of movement and balance. Some children may be defensive and try to avoid movements that affect the inner ear. It’s important to practice these activities, but make sure you take it slow.

Vestibular Activities

1.) Jump on a trampoline
2.) Spin around and walk in a straight line
3.) Balance on one foot
4.) Play on a swing set
5.) Rock in a rocking chair

Motor Planning Activities

Motor planning sensory activities practice fine (small movement) or gross (large movement) motor skills. These activities are great to practice if your child is clumsy or has trouble learning new movements.

Motor Planning Activities

1.) Practice a dance routine
2.) Do an obstacle course
3.) Play catch
4.) Play “Simon Says”
5.) Coordination games

When creating activities at home, consider all the senses but pay particular attention to the three above. Gradually introduce senses and start off with a mild version. Do not over load the senses. If you notice your child’s anxiety increasing, then taper the sensation or modify the activity.

What is sensory integration disorder?

While some people do experience dysfunction in the way that they experience sensory input, sensory integration disorder isn’t actually a defined disorder in the DSM-5. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against diagnosing sensory processing disorder and instead considering other underlying causes or conditions (such as ASD).

However, The Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood (DC:0-3) has a classification for sensory-related difficulties, as does the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders (ICDL-DMIC). According to the ICDL-DMIC, the three types of sensory processing disorders include:

  • Sensory modulation challenges: 
    These are characterized by a hyper-reactivity/hypo-reactivity to sensory input or sensory-seeking.
  • Sensory discrimination challenges:
    These can cause trouble identifying or distinguishing different types of sensory input.
  • Sensory-based motor challenges:
    These are characterized by difficulties moving or stabilizing the body and changes in muscle tone or tension.

“The neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively with the environment.”

Thank you to our partners and sponsors for making this series possible!

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