Sensory integration disorder or dysfunction (SID) / Sensory Processing disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder that results
from the brain's inability to integrate, process, and respond to certain information received from the body's five basic sensory
systems. These sensory systems are responsible for detecting sights, sounds, smell, tastes, temperatures, pain and the position
and movements of the body. The brain then forms a combined picture of this information in order for the body to make sense of
its surroundings and react to them appropriately. The ongoing relationship between behavior and brain functioning is called
sensory integration (SI).  Sensory integration provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behavior.

Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, smell, taste, and the pull of gravity. Distinguishing
between these is the process of
sensory integration (SI). While the process of sensory integration occurs automatically and
without effort for most, for some the process is inefficient. Extensive effort and attention are required in these individuals for
sensory integration to occur, without a guarantee of it being accomplished. When this happens, goals are not easily completed,
resulting in
sensory integration disorder (SID) / sensory processing disorder (SPD).

The normal process of
sensory integration begins before birth and continues throughout life, with the majority of sensory
development occurring before the early teenage years.  For most children sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary
childhood activities.  But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should.  This is known as
dysfunction in sensory integration (D.S.I.).  When the process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, motor skills
and behavior may be evident.  The ability for sensory integration to become more refined and effective coincides with the
development process as it determines how well motor and speech skills, and emotional stability develop.  

The concept and theory of
sensory integration disorder / sensory processing disorder comes from a body of work
developed by A.  Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR, and an occupational therapist that was based in California, U.S.A.  As an occupational
therapist, Dr. Ayres was interested in the way in which sensory processing and motor planning disorders interfere with activities
of daily living and learning.  The beginnings of the sensory integration theory by Ayres instigated research that looks at the
foundation it provides for complex learning and behavior throughout life.

Causes and Symptoms

The presence of a sensory integration disorder is typically detected in young children. While most children develop sensory
integration during the course of ordinary childhood activities, which helps establish such things as the ability  for motor planning
and adapting to incoming sensations, others' sensory integration ability does not develop as efficiently. When their process is
disordered, a variety of problems in learning, development, or behavior become obvious.

Those who have sensory integration dysfunction may be unable to respond to certain sensory information by planning and
organizing what needs to be done in an appropriate and automatic manner. This may cause a primitive survival technique called
fright, flight, and fight" or withdrawal response, which originates from the "primitive" brain. This response often appears
extreme and inappropriate for the particular situation.

The neurological disorganization resulting in
sensory integration disorder / sensory processing disorder occurs in three
different ways: the brain does not receive messages due to a disconnection in the neuron cells; sensory messages are received
inconsistently; or sensory messages are received consistently, but do not connect properly with other sensory messages. When
the brain poorly processes sensory messages, inefficient motor, language, or emotional output is the result.

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 / sensory processing disorder:

•        Over sensitivity 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

While research indicates that sensory integrative problems are found in up to 70% of children who are considered learning
disabled by schools, the problems of sensory integration are not confined to children with learning disabilities.
integration / sensory processing disorder
transfers through all age groups, as well as intellectual levels and socioeconomic
groups. Factors that contribute to
sensory integration / sensory processing disorder include: premature birth; autism and
other developmental disorders; learning disabilities; delinquency and substance abuse due to learning disabilities; stress-related
disorders; and brain injury.              

Research has identified
autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as two of the biggest contributing
conditions as well as learning disorders (i.e. Specific learning difficulties), developmental disabilities and fragile X syndrome.


In order to determine the presence of sensory integration or sensory processing disorder, an evaluation may be conducted
by a qualified occupational or physical therapist. An evaluation normally consists of both standardized testing and structured
observations of responses to sensory stimulation, posture, balance, coordination, and eye movements. These test results and
assessment data, along with information from other professionals and parents, are carefully analyzed by the therapist who then
makes recommendations about appropriate treatment.

Sensory processing disorder is usually recognized in early childhood or adolescence but may be seen throughout the lifespan.
These children do not “outgrow” the problem. Difficulties continue into adulthood, although sometimes severity of symptoms
may become less apparent as the child learns managing techniques.

Children with sensory processing disorder have difficulty with:
•        Managing anxiety
•        Handling high stress situations
•        Dealing with frustration
•        Staying on tasks to finishing point
•        Effectively using fine and gross motor skills

When comparing children’s sensory processing problems with coping abilities, the sensory processing problems were
mostly related to the child’s difficulty with their ability to

•        Handle new situations
•        Change plans / transition
•        Appropriately learn new situations
•        Understand independence and dependence
•        Use self-defense successfully
•        Have an proper activity level
•        Control impulses

Sensory processing disorder is often associated with other diagnoses such as:

•        Pervasive developmental disorder/ autism spectrum
•        Learning disabilities/ attention deficit disorder
•        Language disorders
•        Behavioral disorders
•        Anxiety disorder/ depression

Children with sensory processing disorder may display the following behaviors:

•        May not like messy things or getting dirty
•        May not like to be touched, hugged or cuddled
•        Likes to touch objects and people to the point of becoming annoying
•        May frequently put things in his/her mouth
•        Refuses to brushing teeth
•        May gag during tooth brushing

Sensory seeking children appear to desire touch because they need sensation that is intense, frequent and/or of long interval.  
Touch systems around the head and face may contribute to over-sensitive to touch, leading to poor tolerance of anything around
the mouth.

Sensory Under-Sensitivity

Children with under sensitivity do not respond to and may seem uninterested or unresponsive to sensory experiences.
These children may exhibit the following traits:

•        The child seems weak, slumps, and leans on people or furniture.
•        The child has low energy and has a hard time waking up.
•        The child gets tired easily, lies around and appears to have little motivation to walk around.
•        The child does things very slowly.
•        The child seems depressed or neutral.

Sensory Over-Sensitivity

Children with over sensitivity respond to sensations from just one sensory system faster, with more intensity or for a longer
period than typical peers.

•        The child responds negatively or emotionally to loud people or places.
•        The child has trouble concentrating in noisy environments
•        The child frequently hums or makes other strange noises.

Some children who are overwhelmed by their environment over-react to sounds or even ‘shut them out’ so that it seems like
they are not hearing, while other kids make sounds to block the noises in their environment. These children are sensory seeking
and seem to have a craving for strong levels of sensation. Children with over-sensitivity may become uncomfortable with
changes to new situations.

Sensory Modulation Disorder

This sensory processing disorder causes problems with modifying responses to sensory inputs resulting in withdrawal or strong
negative responses to sensations that do not usually bother typical peers. Problems are often seen in irregular emotions that are
made worse by stress, and vary with the situation.

Signs of Sensory Modulation Disorder

•        Easily distracted by sounds
•        Extremely sensitive to sounds
•        Difficulty with falling or staying asleep
•        Reacts defensively to being touched lightly or unexpectedly
•        Easily distracted by visual stimuli
•        Overly active
•        Outbursts of anger

Sensory Discrimination Disorder

Children with sensory discrimination disorder have trouble in recognizing and interpreting differences or similarities in the nature
of stimuli. It is commonly seen with problems in processing sensations from touch, muscles, joints and head movements
(vestibular or inner ear sensations).

Signs of Sensory Discrimination Disorder

•        The child hits or pushes other people
•        The child grips objects too tightly or uses too much strength
•        The child frequently drops things or knocks things over
•        The child mouths, licks, chews, or sucks on non-food items
•        The child craves movement, such as spinning or jumping around
•        The child is afraid of heights/ swings or slides
•        The child has poor balance

Postural-Ocular Disorder

Postural-Ocular Disorder is a problem with control of posture or quality of movements seen in low muscle tone or joint
instability and/or poor functional use of vision. These children have difficulty stabilizing the body while resting/moving and
trouble with using both sides of the body together. This disorder is often seen with vestibular (the inner ear) problems.

Sings of Postural-Ocular Disorder

•        The child seems weaker than other children
•        The child wears out easily
•        The child often moves around repeatedly
•        The child slumps while sitting
•        The child has difficulty making eye contact/ following with the eyes, such as reading
•        The child seems clumsy he/she may fall and tumble frequently
•        The child may seek movements of swinging or spinning


Children with dyspraxia have trouble with planning, sequencing & executing unfamiliar actions resulting in awkward & poorly
coordinated motor skills typically seen with a sensory processing deficit. It is usually seen with difficulty doing new activities or
those that are done infrequently. Children with dyspraxia may be slow at learning a new sequence of movement. Children who
have dyspraxia have difficulty figuring out what movement they need to make, planning how to move and accomplishing a plan.
They need to be given more time between transitions.

Signs of Dyspraxia

•        Difficulty following multi-step directions
•        Strong desire for sameness or routines
•        Has an awkward pencil grasp
•        Has poor handwriting
•        Dislikes or hesitant to participate in sports
•        Easily frustrated
•        Problems with daily life skills like dressing or using utensils
•        Trouble figuring out how to get on swings or slides, play with new toys, get dressed or make certain speech     sounds
•        Frequently trips, falls, bumps into things and drops toys
•        Difficulty imitating simple movements with his hands, arms, legs or mouth
•        Difficulty with changes in his routine or schedule
•        May show separation anxiety / difficulty separating from caretaker

Sensory Integration Treatment

Occupational therapists play a key role in the conventional treatment. By providing sensory integration therapy, occupational
therapists are able to supply the vital sensory input and experiences that children with
sensory processing disorder need to
grow and learn. Also referred to as a "sensory diet," this type of therapy involves a planned and scheduled activity program
implemented by an occupational therapist, with each "diet" being designed and developed to meet the needs of the child's nervous
system. A sensory diet stimulates the "near" senses (
tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive) with a combination of alerting,
organizing, and calming techniques.

Motor skills training methods that normally consist of adaptive physical education, movement education, and gymnastics are
often used by occupational and physical therapists. While these are important skills to work on, the sensory integrative approach
is vital to treating sensory processing.

The sensory integrative approach is guided by one important aspect-the child's motivation in selection of the activities. By
allowing them to be actively involved, and explore activities that provide sensory experiences most beneficial to them, children
become more mature and efficient at organizing sensory information.

Alternative treatment

Sensory integration disorder (SID) / Sensory Processing disorder (SPD)
is treatable with occupational therapy, but some
alternative methods are emerging to complement the conventional methods used for sensory integration.

Therapeutic body brushing is often used on children (not infants) who overreact to tactile stimulation. A specific non-scratching
surgical brush is used to make firm, brisk movements over most of the body, especially the arms, legs, hands, back and soles of
the feet. A technique of deep joint compression follows the brushing. Usually begun by an occupational therapist, the technique
is taught to parents who need to complete the process for three to five minutes, six to eight times a day. The time needed for
brushing is reduced as the child begins to respond more normally to touch. In order for this therapy to be effective, the correct
brush and technique must be used.

Remember - An important step in promoting sensory integration in children is to recognize that it exists and that it
plays a vital role in their development.
Sensory integration - symptoms of sensory processing disorder - Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information.
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Remember - An important step in promoting sensory integration in children is to
recognize that it exists and that it plays a vital role in their development.