Sensory integration is a term that has been used to describe processes in the brain that allow us to take information we receive from our 5 senses, organize it, and respond appropriately. We also have a vestibular sense (balance) that tells us how to position our bodies and heads, and a proprioceptive sense (awareness of body in space) that helps us know what we do with our joints, muscles, and ligaments.
In children who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder, sensory processing deficits have been theorized to cause difficulties that affect behavior and life skills. As a result, some children may be hypersensitive or hypo-sensitive to stimuli in the surroundings. Loud music, for instance, may cause intense discomfort, while bright fluorescent lights that bother others may be riveting to some children with ASDs. Children with sensory processing deficits may have difficulty with motor skills, balance, and eye-hand coordination. Some children will look for ways to seek out certain sensations and engage in self-stimulating behaviors like rocking back and forth, head banging, and oral exploration of non edible objects.
Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory integration therapy is designed to help children with sensory-processing problems (including possibly those with ASDs) cope with the difficulties they have processing sensory input. Therapy sessions are play-oriented and may include using equipment such as swings, trampolines, balance boards and slides.
Sensory integration therapy increases a child’s ability to tolerate sensory-rich environments e.g. classroom, school, shopping mall, marriages etc. without major difficulties or melt downs; make transitions less disturbing (e.g. from home to school), and reinforce positive behaviors.