We take in information through our senses, our brain processes and integrates the information and then we act, or behave, in a particular way in response to the information.
Our 8 sensory systems include:
These sensory system needs to work efficiently, alone and in conjunction with other systems, for us to respond to a given stimulus appropriately.
Whilst each of us may have different sensory preferences, the failure of our sensory processing systems to work optimally, can have a negative impact on day to day living. Whether it be an inability to sit still in class because of a need for additional proprioceptive input, fear of a noisy school canteen because of auditory over-responsivity, or difficulty getting dressed independently due to inadequate tactile discrimination, our senses play a crucial part in our everyday activities.
Sometimes these difficulties are referred to as a sensory processing disorder or sensory integration dysfunction.
Fears, worries and distress are often experienced by children who have sensory processing difficulties and emotional outburst are common. The world can feel very unpredictable and unsafe.
Sensory processing difficulties frequently (but not always) co-occur with other conditions such as Autism, Dyspraxia, DCD, ADHD, Global Developmental Delay, Executive Function Disorders or early trauma. It is important to view the child’s needs as a whole when working to improve sensory integration.
Ayre’s Model of Sensory Integration originated some 40 years ago and has helped inform modern-day understanding of Tactile, Vestibular and Proprioceptive difficulties. Other theorists and neuroscientists have provided insights into processing difficulties in other sensory systems.
There are a variety of approaches which may be taken through therapy and/or home programmes to help address sensory integration problems. These may include lifestyle modifications, identifying strategies, adapting the environment, or introducing targeted sensory enrichment activities to produce an adaptive response. When we ‘do things differently’ (produce an adaptive response), we strengthen the brain pathways we need to make progress.
You are welcome to discuss options for therapy after an assessment has been carried out.