About sensory processing and sensory integration
We take in information from our surroundings through our senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, movement, and body position. This sensory input is processed by our visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, vestibular and proprioceptive systems, respectively.
Various parts of our brain must work together in an integrated way so that we are able to respond effectively to the messages and environmental cues we are receiving. This information helps in the control, co-ordination and organisation of our body. When we react appropriately we interact with our environment successfully. This enables us to carry out the everyday tasks and activities that we want, and need, to do.
Sensory integration develops in the early years of childhood as the basic sensory systems mature. With this maturation increasingly complex goal-directed actions are achieved. In normal development these processing skills become automatic – we don’t have to think about them.
Each of us is unique and so sensory processing differences and preferences are to be expected. A dislike of loud noises, certain smells, or the feel of certain fabrics or textures can all be quite normal.
Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)
A difference becomes a disorder when it significantly affects our development or our ability to carry out everyday tasks and activities. The severity is on a continuum, but essentially if we have poor sensory integration, or one or more of our sensory processing systems doesn’t function effectively, we will not be able to make an appropriate response to the demands of our environment.
SPD can affect focus and attention, learning and academic achievement, motor skill development, personal identity, activities of daily living, social interaction, emotional development and behaviour.
SPD is most commonly found in association with other conditions – speech and language delay, behaviour problems, autism, dyspraxia, ADHD and general developmental delay.
Categories of SPD
There are 3 main types of SPD (Miller et al)
Sensory Modulation Disorders – difficulty regulating the response to sensory stimulus. This may result in an over-responsive, under-responsive or sensory seeking response.
Sensory Based Motor Disorder – this may be postural, with poor balance and core stability, or dyspraxia which affects sequencing, motor planning and organization skills
Sensory Discrimination Disorder – difficulty interpreting the specific characteristics of sensory stimuli (e.g intensity, duration, speed and timing)
Assessment and Therapy programmes for SPD (all ages)
- Sensory profiling
- Standardised sensory assessments for visual and auditory processing
- Clinic and home based therapy programmes
- Integrated Listening Systems
- ACT+ workshops and programmes for parents
- Advice, training and consultancy to schools and care homes