“Sensory Integration is the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’ sown body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment . . .” (A. Jean Ayers, 1972). In most cases, sensory information is processed in an organized and useful way within the brain. Then, the brain can easily use this information to learn, to concentrate, to coordinate the body, for self-control and self-esteem, and to perform everyday activities. When this neurological process in not well organized, then sensory processing is disorganized or disordered. The brain then has difficulty paying attention, learning, or how to use the body in an effective and efficient way to perform everyday activities.
Most of us have learned about our five senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Most of us also do not know that we have more than five senses. We also have the vestibular sense that tells our brain about the position of our head, the pull of gravity, and if we are moving or staying still. We also have a proprioceptive sense which tells our brain about the position of our body parts. All of these senses work together in very complex ways to help us function and they do it without our conscious awareness.
Isn’t it nice that we do not have to think about the hum of the computer or air conditioner, the clothes on our skin, pointing our eyes towards the screen to read, the position of our body while we read, wondering if we are upright or if we may suddenly fall, or think about the smell of whatever is around us? If we had to think about these things all the time, how would we be able to think about anything else? How could we get our work done? How could we learn new things? It is not just nice, but essential that our brain processes all the sensory information that we are constantly experiencing without having to pay attention to it all.
However, for some children and even in adults, this process does not occur in a well ordered way. For some reason, sensory information is not synchronizing together for the brain to be able to use it in an effective or efficient way. Like a traffic jam or crowded place, the information does not pass through effectively to reach its intended destination. These adults and children must attempt to adapt to these issues by using coping skills or strategies that to others may seem odd, avoid situations or activities, and/or attempt to control the world around them because the internal world is in disarray, and/or meltdown under the pressure.
These children or adults may be described as having a sensory processing disorder. When sensory processing becomes disordered, a child or adult struggles with many aspects of daily living. Many times it is difficult to nail down exactly what the problem is. However, when the struggles are viewed from a sensory integrative perspective by a skilled and knowledgeable therapist, the reasons for struggle become much more clear.
To keep learning, click on the following links:
Learn more about sensory integration and sensory processing.
Learn about the signs and symptoms of sensory processing disorders.
I think my child may have a sensory processing disorder. What do I do next?