Healthy Sensory Integration/Processing allows us to act or respond to situations appropriately and is essential for brain development and maturity. Sensory integration is the process that organises information detected by the senses i.e. taste, sight, hearing, touch, smell, movement, gravity and body position. It allows us to respond purposefully to the ever-changing demands of our environment.

Sensory Integration/Processing gives meaning to what is experienced by sifting through all the information and selecting what to focus on, such as listening to a teacher or ignoring the noise of the traffic outside. This is called sensory modulation. By inhibiting or suppressing irrelevant information through prioritising, we are able to focus on relevant information.

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

  • Unusually high or low activity levels observed as hyperactivity or lethargic dreamy behaviour.
  • Poor organisation of behaviour with impulsive or distractible tendencies, difficulty adjusting to a new situation or following instructions. May become frustrated, aggressive or withdrawn when encountering failure.
  • Often uses more force than is necessary e.g. tend to break things unintentionally, presses too hard when writing
  • Coordination problems such as poor balance or difficulty learning new motor tasks, often appearing awkward and clumsy
  • Obstacles in academic learning despite normal intelligence, or difficulties with activities of daily living such as tying shoes, handwriting, using eating utensils.
  • Anxiety and poor self-esteem which can be disguised as a bored and unmotivated approach or a stubborn and avoidant approach to tasks.
  • Increased sensitivity to stimuli which can be seen as distractibility, lack of attention or discomfort e.g. may lash out if others bump or touch them unexpectedly.
  • Individuals are overwhelmed or bothered by sensory stimuli; withdrawing and avoidance of activities e.g. hate having their face washed, avoid certain clothing, avoid wearing socks and shoes or avoid going barefoot; avoids messy tasks in class, tendency to play on the fringes.
  • Individuals take longer to respond or miss information in the environment; they have difficulty reacting to rapidly presented or low-intensity stimuli e.g. don’t notice if their face or hands are messy or invade others personal space.
  • The child seeks out intense sensory experiences such as spinning and crashing, a need to touch objects or others frequently.