Sensory Integration is the process of detecting information through all seven senses i.e. taste, sight, touch, smell, movement, gravity and body position; and being able to organise this information so that we can respond purposefully to the ever-changing demands of the environment.

We all have sensory processing differences but these only need to be addressed in therapy if they impact negatively on the child’s function such as their development, play, self-care, behaviour, socialising and ability to learning. 

Some of the more common sensory integration / processing difficulties are:

  • Poor organisation of behaviour with impulsive or distractible tendencies, difficulty adjusting to new situation or following instructions. 
  • Emotional control issues – may become frustrated, aggressive, withdrawn or tearful when encountering failure or input that they struggle to process. 
  • Unusually high or low activity levels observed as hyperactivity or lethargic dreamy behaviour.
  • May use more force than is necessary e.g. tend to break things unintentionally, press too hard when colouring in, drawing or writing. 
  • Motor coordination problems such as poor balance or difficulty learning new motor tasks, often appearing awkward and clumsy. The child may trip/fall often, bump into things, may struggle with handwriting 
  • Obstacles in academic learning despite normal intelligence.
  • Difficulties with activities of daily living such as dressing, using eating utensils, tying shoelaces, brushing teeth, toileting.
  • Anxiety and poor self-esteem.
  • Increased sensitivity to stimuli can lead to lashing out if others bump or touch them unexpectedly, avoidance of unsolicited touch such as avoiding being hugged or tending to be on the outskirts of group situations/play.
  • Being overwhelmed or bothered by sensory stimuli; e.g. hate having their face washed, avoid certain clothing (only cotton, seams turned out), avoid messy tasks in class, tendency to play on the fringes, uneasy/avoids jungle gyms and swings, fussy eaters, unsettled in noisy environments (e.g. parties/ shopping malls), etc. Exposure to these types of stimuli can often result in exaggerated emotional or behavioural responses.
  • Take longer to respond or miss information in the environment; they have difficulty reacting to rapidly presented or low-intensity stimuli e.g. they don’t notice if their face or hands are messy, unaware of invading others personal space, daydreamy, difficulty with organisational skills such as independently following through with a routine.
  • Seek out intense sensory experiences such as spinning and crashing, a need to touch objects or others frequently. An excessive need to engage in behaviours to provide themselves with more input making it challenging to prioritise their attention and participation within their environment. They are constantly moving, fidgeting, making noises, not hearing when being called (despite normal hearing), often have incomplete work
  • Difficulties co-ordinating the two sides of the body and/or crossing the body's midline e.g. ball skills, swimming, riding a bicycle, eating with a knife and fork.
  • Difficulties planning, sequencing and executing novel (new) movement patterns. Take longer than average to learn new tasks such as riding a bicycle, inflexible during changes with routine, generally do not like change and prefers structure.
  • Speech and language development may be affected.
  • Difficulties developing and sustaining relationships and poor social skills.
  • Difficulty with sustaining focus and attention.