Updated: Aug 11
What is it?
Sensory integration is the process a child goes through of taking in and understanding all of the different sensations they experience. This includes vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, vestibular information, as well as knowing where their body is in space. All of this information is constantly being sent to the brain, and sensory integration is the process of the brain organizing it well enough so that a child can understand and explore their environment. Sometimes people young and old have difficulty processing that information, which can lead to impaired movements and behavioral issues. There are a wide range of diagnoses in which decreased sensory integration plays a role, including autism, T21, infantile hemiplegia, and sensory based motor disorders (SMBDs).
How does PT help?
Physical therapists can help children improve their sensory integration by giving their different sensory systems opportunities to practice processing the information in a safe environment. This can include jumping on giant balls, balance activities, pushing and lifting heavy things, obstacle courses over different surfaces and much, much more! Sensory integration focused PT has been shown to be effective in improving movement, communication, behavior and attention span.
How can you help at home?
For any children struggling with sensory integration, family can help by doing activities or playing games that encourage increased movement and muscle activation. Some ideas are dancing, Twister, carrying a laundry basket to their room, swinging at the park, running or playing in the sand, and heavy weighted blankets for kids that enjoy big hugs. Anything you can think of that activates their body and stimulates their mind.
Andelin, L., Reynolds, S., & Schoen, S. (2021). Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Using a Sensory Integration Approach: A Multiple-Baseline Design Study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75(6), 1–14. https://doi-org.libproxy.txstate.edu/10.5014/ajot.2021.044917
Abdel Karim, A. E., & Mohammed, A. H. (2015). Effectiveness of sensory integration program in motor skills in children with autism. Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, 16(4), 375–380.