Sensory IntegrationSensory integration is the ability to take in information through the senses of touch, movement, smell, taste, vision, and hearing and combine them with prior memories and knowledge already stored in the brain. Dysfunction occurs when a disorder or an injury causes the brain to take in the senses normally but they are perceived or processed abnormally. Sensory integration therapy or sensory re-training is a form of therapy in which special exercises are used to help a person’s under- or over-sensitivity to the sense of touch, movement, sight, or sound and to help a person’s sense of balance (vestibular) and where their body is in space (proprioceptive). These exercises can include various alerting, organizing, and calming techniques.
Sensory re-training has also been shown to improve function following nerve injury or nerve damage following surgery. At the proper time, exercises are introduced to decrease pain associated with hypersensitivity and to improve touch discrimination and touch localization. Touch discrimination involves the ability to tell the difference between varying degrees of softness or roughness and localization is the ability to tell where the sensation is being applied to the body. The improved sensory function helps to improve coordination and function in all activities of daily living.
The following are some signs of sensory integration dysfunction:
- Overly sensitive to touch, movements, sights, or sounds. Behavior issues: distractible, withdrawal when touched, avoidance of textures, certain clothes, and foods. Fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities such as playground play. Sensitive to loud noises. May act out aggressively with unexpected sensory input.
- Under-reactive to sensory stimulation. Seeks out intense sensory experiences such as body whirling, falling and crashing into objects. May appear oblivious to pain or to body position. May fluctuate between under and over-responsiveness.
- Unusually high/low activity level. Constantly on the move or may be slow to get going, and fatigue easily. Tendency to be easily distracted or difficulty in making transitions from one situation to another.
- Coordination problems. May have poor balance, may have great difficulty learning a new task that requires motor coordination, appears awkward, stiff, careless, or clumsy.