When your child has fever and chills, a whooping cough or poor eyesight the problems are obvious. Some other problems such as the problems underlying slow learning at school and poor behavior are not obvious. Slow learning and poor behavior in children are often caused by inadequate Sensory Integration within the child’s brain. These Sensory Integration problems are not obvious, yet they occur among many children. They cause some bright children to have trouble learning in school, and they cause poor behavior in some children who have fine parents and a positive upbringing.
Since the brain is something that doctors study in medical school, you might assume that physicians know about Sensory Integrative disorders. However doctors usually focus on other aspects of illness and may not always recognize a Sensory Integrative problem. Parents who spend time observing their children are most likely to see the problem but without knowledge about the nervous system they may not understand what is going on inside their children.
Sensory Integration occurs automatically in most people so we tend to take it for granted just as we take our heartbeat and digestion for granted. But if the brain does a poor job of Integrating Sensations this will interfere with many things in life. There will be more effort and difficulty, and less success and satisfaction in various activities. Some children who have poor Sensory Integration may seem typical in several ways. Other children with Sensory Integrative dysfunction may have other medical or educational diagnosis and may demonstrate difficulties beyond those associated with Sensory Integrative problems. Sensory Integrative dysfunction is to the brain what indigestion is to the digestive tract.
Sensory Integrative Dysfunction is when the brain is not processing or organizing the flow of sensory impulses in a manner that gives the individual good, precise information about himself or his world. When the brain is not processing sensory input well, it usually is not directing behavior effectively either. Without good Sensory Integration, learning is difficult and the individual often feels uncomfortable about himself and cannot easily cope with ordinary demands and stress. Sensory Integrative dysfunction is a sort of “traffic jam” in the brain. Some bits of sensory information get “tied up in traffic” and certain parts of the brain do not get the sensory information they need to do their jobs. If you have been in a rush hour traffic jam, you know what disorder is. Impulses that are to travel to the brain would be like the automobiles.
Therapy for Sensory Integrative Dysfunction focuses on building the foundational skills because, like building blocks, the child’s performance depends on well developed brain and nervous system at each level. Pediatric Occupational Therapy applies Sensory Integration based Interventions and can help with:
- Assessment to identify skill levels and functional barriers
- Consultation to provide initial or ongoing support to the family, school and community
- Treatment to facilitate the development of skills and functional performance
Harsha Rana OTR/L, MBA is Certified in Sensory Integration and Praxis Test and is a practicing Occupational Therapist.