"Sensory integration" is our nervous system's ability to take in and process sensory information so that we can use our bodies efficiently and effectively within our environment. We usually think of the five senses of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell; however, we also receive information from proprioception (body position sense) and our vestibular system (balance). Our brains receive constant messages about our environment from our sensory system. Most people are able to use these messages to interact with their environment without much thought. Some people have more difficulty in filtering, processing, understanding, and responding to all of the information that comes from all of the different systems. Sensory integration therapy is very helpful for children to achieve a "just right" state for learning new skills and can lead to positive changes in behavior, motor and social skills, and emotional development.
Hypersensitivities to sensory input may include:
• Extreme response to or fear of sudden, high-pitched, loud, or metallic noises like flushing toilets, clanking silverware, or other noises that seem unoffensive to others
• May notice and/or be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear
• Fearful of surprise touch, avoids hugs and cuddling even with familiar adults
• Seems fearful of crowds or avoids standing in close proximity to others
• Does not enjoy a game of tag and/or is overly fearful of swings and playground equipment
• Extremely fearful of climbing or falling, even when there is no real danger (i.e., does not like his or her feet to be off the ground)
• Has poor balance and falls often
• A constant need to touch people or textures, even when it is inappropriate to do so
• Does not understand personal space even when same-age peers are old enough to understand it
• Clumsy and uncoordinated movements
• An extremely high tolerance for or indifference to pain
• Often harms other children and/or pets when playing (i.e., does not understand his or her own strength)
• May be very fidgety and unable to sit still, enjoys movement-based play like spinning, jumping, etc.
• Seems to be a "thrill seeker" and can be dangerous at times