Friday, March 25, 2011

Special Needs: Sensory Integration Disorders

The concept of sensory integration was developed based on research by an occupational therapist named Jane Ayres, PhD. OTR in Southern California in the late 50’s.

What are sensory integration disorders?

Sensory integration disorder or dysfunction is considered a neurological disorder in which the brain does not effectively integrate information received from the body’s five basic sensory systems. 

Basically when someone has a sensory integration disorder order their central nervous system or brain is unable to process the information their senses are delivering, so their responses to their environment are not appropriate. 

When someone is hypersensitive to stimuli from the senses they tend to overreact to their environment, someone who is sensitive to noise and has to cover their ears when things get noisy.  When someone is hyposensitive to stimuli they tend to under react to their environment, someone who is not sensitive to pain.

What are sensory systems?

The sensory systems of the body are responsible for giving the brain information about the environment via the 5 most well known senses; vision, sounds, smells, tastes, temperature, pain and the position and movements of the body’s position in space.

How does sensory integration impact behavior and learning?

Someone who has sensory integration dysfunction has difficulty responding to certain sensory information.  They are unable to plan and organize behavior and learning in an appropriate and automatic manner.  This inability to respond to sensory stimuli adequately may cause a primitive “fright, flight, and fight” or withdrawl response.  These sorts of responses often appear extreme and inappropriate.

How does the neurological disorganization happen?

There are three different ways the neurological/sensory systems breakdown.
  • The brain does not receive messages from the sensory system.  This results in hyposensitivity to environmental stimuli.  With hyposensitivity a person will quite often exhibit a lack of reaction to sensation and/or sensory seeking behaviors such as excessive movement.
  • The sensory messages that are received are inconsistent.  This makes learning difficult since drawing consistent accurate conclusions or understanding patterns in techniques is difficult.
  • Sensory messages are received consistently, but do not connect properly with other sensory messages, which creates confusion.

When the brain has problems processing sensory messages, there is inefficient motor, language or emotion output.

What are the signs of sensory integrative problems?

According to Sensory Integration International (SII), a non-profit corporation concerned with the impact of sensory
integrative problems on people's lives, the following are some signs of sensory integration disorder  (SID):

•        Oversensitivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
•        Under reactivity to touch, movement, sights, or sounds
•        Specific learning difficulties /delays in academic achievement  
•        Difficulty in making transitions from one situation to another
•        Tendency to be easily distracted / Limited attention control
•        Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low
•        Social and/or emotional problems
•        Difficulty learning new movements
•        Delays in speech, language, or motor skills
•         Physical clumsiness or apparent carelessness
•        Impulsive, lacking in self-control      
•        Inability to unwind or calm self
•        Poor self concept / body awareness

Sensory integration issues are often a part of learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders and autism

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