As a parent you may have heard the term Sensory Integration used more and more frequently these days when a teacher, therapist or Doctor is discussing your child in regards to some difficulties they may be having. Do not be alarmed!
Sensory Integration is a process that occurs in all of us. We all take in sensory information from our bodies and the world around us. Our brains are programmed to organise or “integrate” this sensory information to make it meaningful to us. This integration allows us to respond automatically, efficiently and comfortably in response to the sensory input we receive.
Now that is a lot of jargon to understand, to help you out here is a practical example of Sensory Integration and how it works:
“Picture yourself at a cottage. You are standing on the dock, about to climb into a canoe. You put your foot down into the canoe and as you begin to step in the canoe starts to rock. Automatically you adjust your body to keep yourself balanced and slowly sit down, placing yourself in the middle of the seat”
When you step into the canoe your body automatically receives feedback through your five senses if you have good sensory integration.
- Touch – tells you that your foot is on the bottom of the canoe
- Proprioception – tells you the position of your body leaning over the canoe through your muscles and joints
- Vestibular – tells you that your centre of gravity has changed and that the canoe is moving
- Visual – tells you how much lower the boat is to the dock
- Auditory – lets you know if there are friends nearby to help
If your child does not have good sensory integration climbing into that canoe can turn into a disaster. There are many possible reasons as to why they would have difficulty, I will break down the reasons into our senses again:
- Touch – if we are unable to sense a hard surface under our feet we may become more afraid of stepping into the canoe
- Proprioception – decrease feedback through the muscles resulting in poor balance or putting their body weight solely into one side of the canoe
- Vestibular – sensitivity to the movement of the boat and fearful of the unpredictability that comes with the task of getting into the canoe
- Visual – poor depth perception may lead to not calculating how far away or down the canoe is from the dock