Sensory Integration Therapy

 What is Sensory Integration Therapy and Activities?
The ability to learn and pay attention is dependent on our ability to integrate and organize our sensory experiences. Most people think of our senses as the "five basic senses" of sight, Dr. Jean Ayres developed the theory behind sensory integration therapy. The therapy does not directly work on functional skills, but rather it focuses on providing sensory input to help organize the central nervous system. Through this sensory input, underlying sensory processes are theoretically normalized with the assumption that improvement in sensory processing will lead to observable improvements at the functional level. Touch, smell, hearing and taste. However, there are several others "senses" that are very important for learning and attention. These include:

Vestibular: The vestibular system refers to structures of the inner ear that give the brain information about body position and movement. The vestibular sense is very important to one's sense of balance and gravitational security. Children with vestibular dysfunction may be fearful of movement and thus avoid it, appearing clumsy and apprehensive to engage in movement activities that other children delight in. Conversely, other children have a hypo-reactive vestibular system and seem to crave excessive jumping, spinning, whirling, etc.
Proprioceptive: The proprioceptive system refers to information provided from the joints, muscles, and tendons to the brain that tells us where our body is in relation to other objects. Our proprioception gives us knowledge about our body position. Children with proprioceptive problems may have difficulty knowing where their body is in space and may appear clumsy, falling into things, losing balance, knocking things over or appearing not to perceive personal boundaries. These children may do poorly with fine motor control necessary for writing, drawing, and manipulating small objects with their hands.
Tactile: includes nerve endings under the skin that send information to the brain. This includes information about light touch, pressure, pain and temperature. Tactile information plays an important role in our perception of the environment. A tactile system that is dysfunctional may lead to a misperception of touch and/or pain and may lead to self-imposed isolation, irritability, distractibility, and hyperactivity.
Praxis: praxis is the ability to plan and execute skilled movement and is often called motor planning. The ability to organize and use sensory information is critical to efficient motor planning.

Children with ADHD may have difficulty in one or more areas of sensory integration and may benefit from structured sensory integration therapy or a "sensory diet" (sensory experiences) woven into their day.