I will now try to explain what sensory integration is, what children need it, and what the classes conducted with the use of this method are all about.
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition in which a person is unable to use the information gathered with the senses for easy functioning in everyday life. SPD is also known as sensory integration dysfunction or SI disorder.
Sensory Processing is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D,OTR likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
The way we learn about the world is through our senses – sensory integration. Countless bits of sensory information enter our brain at every moment – from every place in our bodies. The senses consist not only of Touch, Hearing, Vision, Taste, Smell; but also the Vestibular and Proprioceptive Senses, which detect the pull of gravity and the movements of our body in relation to the earth and the space around us.
A policeman directing the traffic at the crossroads directs the vehicles just like our brain directs the information that reaches it. If the pieces of information (vehicles) flow in an organised fashion and, on their way, join other sensations gathered earlier, the brain uses them for proper behaviour and knowledge absorption. If the flow of such information is not organised, chaos prevails and life looks like a traffic jam during rush hours.
Why is this happening? What image depicts a child with the existing problem?
Let me use the example of Wiktor. He is a “lively” boy curious of virtually everything, he likes to play in the playground, particularly on the merry-go-round and climbing frames. His mum gets upset, because Wiktor does not listen to her instructions. At school his teacher notices the boy’s aggressive behaviour and lack of concentration in class. Wiktor has problems with taking down what he hears. The times when such children were put in the same group of “naughty and ill-bred” are long gone. Today we wonder what is not working right and what disorders cause such responses. Wiktor’s behaviour may be influenced by touch, vestibule, and hearing. The reason for hitting other boys may be the improper reception of tactile stimuli by the boy. When the tactile system operates incorrectly, the sensations reaching it are processed improperly and, consequently, the brain response to such behaviour is also improper. For instance, every nudge during the break is exaggerated, evokes disproportionate emotional response and causes aggressive behaviour that is also associated with the fact that such children cannot assess the force they are using. Wiktor likes to climb and play on the merry-go-round, and he is not afraid of heights. This is typical of all children. But if a child enjoys a limited scope of activities, e.g. when going to the playground, they always play on the merry-go-round, and spend a lot of time there, we can talk about over-stimulation of the vestibular system with such sensations. During classes the boy sits close to the window. He can hear the passing cars, people, and their conversations. Wiktor’s lack of concentration on the tasks can be caused by hearing hypersensitivity. All sounds distract him and prevent him from focusing on the classes.
It is possible to help such a child. The Sensory Integration therapy supports the functioning of senses, influences the changes in behaviour in the motor, emotional and cognitive spheres, and thus improves the ability to learn effectively.
Sensory Processing Disorder can affect people in only one sense–for example, just touch or just sight or just movement–or in multiple senses. One person with SPD may over-respond to sensation and find clothing, physical contact, light, sound, food, or other sensory input to be unbearable. Another might under-respond and show little or no reaction to stimulation, even pain or extreme hot and cold. In children whose sensory processing of messages from the muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. These are the “floppy babies” who worry new parents and the kids who get called “klutz” and “spaz” on the playground. Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive. These kids often are misdiagnosed – and inappropriately medicated – for ADHD.
Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.