Sensory integration, also known as sensory processing, refers to the way the nervous system receives, interprets, and responds to sensory information from the environment. It is a crucial process that helps individuals make sense of the world around them and coordinate their actions and responses accordingly.
The sensory system includes various sensory modalities, such as vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and the proprioceptive and vestibular senses (related to body position and movement). Sensory integration involves the brain’s ability to effectively and efficiently process and integrate information from these sensory systems.
When sensory integration functions properly, individuals can respond appropriately to sensory stimuli and adapt to different environments. However, some individuals may experience challenges with sensory processing, leading to difficulties in organizing and responding to sensory information. This condition is known as sensory processing disorder (SPD) or sensory integration dysfunction.
People with sensory processing disorder may have difficulties with sensory modulation, discrimination, or motor responses. They may be overly sensitive (hypersensitive) or under-responsive (hyposensitive) to certain sensory stimuli. For example, they may be bothered by loud noises, avoid certain textures or clothing, or have difficulty with balance and coordination.
Occupational therapists often work with individuals with sensory processing difficulties to address these challenges. They use sensory integration therapy, which involves providing controlled sensory experiences to help individuals regulate their responses and improve their ability to process sensory information. This therapy may include activities such as swinging, brushing the skin, playing with different textures, or engaging in deep pressure activities.
It’s important to note that sensory processing challenges can occur in individuals without any other diagnosed condition. Additionally, sensory processing difficulties can also coexist with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or developmental delays.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may have sensory processing difficulties, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional, such as an occupational therapist or a developmental pediatrician, who can provide a thorough evaluation and appropriate interventions.