Bethesda Hospital East

Sensory Integration Therapy

Our nervous systems are designed to take in and interpret information we receive through our senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.  We also sense our position in relation to gravity and movement (vestibular sense) and we sense the position of our joints and muscles in space as we move (proprioception).  For example, these senses enable us to bring a cup to our mouth without spilling.  Our brain receives the information, interprets it and responds accordingly.  This is sensory integration, a skill essential to produce a response that is appropriate to the demands of the environment.

 

The example of bringing a cup or glass to the mouth to drink reflects this complex interaction.  If we can see, we plan the degree of muscle force necessary to lift the glass, even before we pick it up.  If we cannot see, we use touch to locate, and proprioceptive feedback of weight, in order to plan movement to lift the glass.  We have all experienced picking up a plastic cup, thinking it was glass.  Based on vision alone, we plan how much force to exert to lift the glass, and overshoot, as the "glass" was plastic.

 

Think how difficult it can be to perform a simple task if there is a breakdown in ability to focus on sensory input, screen out extraneous input, or interpret the sensory input accurately.  If feedback about sense of touch, body position in space, or movement and gravity is inaccurate or vague, then you cannot feel secure or safe in your environment.

 

Signs and symptoms of a sensory integration disorder include:

  • Hypersensitivity (over responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under responsiveness) to touch, movement or sound
  • Difficulties in coordination or balance. 
  • Speech and language delays - disordered touch and movement feedback from the lips, tongue and jaw results in delayed sound development. (See Childhood Apraxia of Speech)
  • "Picky" eater - child tends to eat foods he/she is familiar with, avoids new tastes or textures. (See Feeding Program
  • Poorly organized behavior - easily distracted, impulsive, has difficulty adjusting to new situations. 
  • Poor motor planning - difficulty sequencing movements to perform novel tasks.  
  • Seemingly unaware of position of body in space.  For example, negotiating obstacles such as climbing on to a chair.

 

What can you do?
Speak with your pediatrician about your concerns and ask for a referral for occupational therapy evaluation.  If gross motor skills are delayed, a physical therapy evaluation may also be warranted.  If your child is 18-24 months and not talking, a speech and language evaluation is indicated.

 

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment, call Central Scheduling at 561.374.5700.
For more information, call 561.374.5712.