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Disorder occurs when the brain is not capable of processing or organizing the flow of sensory
impulses well enough to give someone good, precise information about himself or the world.
An excess amount or not enough input may be received
during a situation. As a result, the brain
becomes confused and is not able to
direct behavior properly and effectively.
Typically, a child may be over sensitive to stimuli involving
the senses such as : noise, light, taste, touch, and motion. On the other hand,
a child may be under sensitive in the areas of temperature, pain and
pressure. This poses an increased risk of injury related to burns,
cutting oneself, or falling. It is not uncommon for a child to be over
sensitive, under sensitive, or a combination of both. As a
result, a child often feels uncomfortable about himself. He cannot cope with
ordinary demands and stress. It is like a "traffic jam" in the brain,
states A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D.
Signs & Symptoms
(from: A Parent's Guide to Understanding Sensory Integration)
Overly sensitive to touch,
movement, sights, or sounds:
Irritability or withdrawal when people touch child or stand nearby,
avoidance of certain textures of clothes (elastic or tags) or foods, fearful
reaction to ordinary movement activities, such as those found on a
playground, strong aversion to hair or tooth brushing, irritability with
elements like wind/sun/lights/noises.
Under-reactive to sensory
out intense sensory experiences such as body whirling or crashing into
objects, oblivious to pain or body position.
Activity level that is
unusually high or unusually low:
on the move or may be slow to activate and fatigue easily.
organizing messages with hands & eyes (seen in gross or fine motor
activities), unusually poor balance, accidentally breaking objects,
stumbling or falling out of chair...clumsy-like, inability to color between lines, use scissors, paste 2
papers together, immature play as witnessed by inability to build with
blocks, do puzzles etc.
Delays in speech, language,
motor skills, or academic achievement:
be able to hear sufficiently, but words are not processed in the brain
correctly, may know what they want to say
but can't direct mouths to say the words.
Poor organization of
behavior: May be impulsive or distractive and show lack of
planning in approach to tasks, difficulty adjusting to a new situation or
change in routine, may react with frustration, aggression or withdrawal when
Poor self concept:
Not playing skillfully with
other kids, child may be aware that some tasks are more difficult for him
than for other children, child doesn't feel quite right, may appear lazy,
school: Difficulty getting along with teachers and classmates due to inability
to build lasting friendships. Child may become angry or strike back if accidentally
bumped by another child while standing in line. Child may be easily distracted due
to lots of people, noises, lights, fast pace, multiple directions from teacher. A
hyperactive child may "jump" all over the classroom not because he wants to, but
because his brain is out of control.
Difficulty copying words from blackboard.
Hands, body, eyes, and ears may not integrate properly so child may not
respond adaptively with hearing or feeling. Child may miss details.
Difficulties in reading, writing, math.
Occupational & Physical Therapists can be very effective in treating children with sensory
integration disorder by focusing on the following areas to either "arouse" or
"calm" the body:
Muscles and joints perception of self in
relation to space... contracting & stretching of muscles...bending, straightening, pushing, pulling,
lifting, deep pressure.
Body's relationship to gravity which involves the inner ear.
Affects balance, equilibrium and position of head in space...spinning in circles ,
swinging, jumping up and down or feeling vibrations.
Sense of touch or movement of hairs on skin...pressure,
temperatures, pain, messy play,
Hand-eye coordination, midline activities.
Following multiple step directions.
Internal organs, blood vessels...blood pressure, digestion, breathing...relaxation
interpret sensory input in a more efficient manner, the better a child will be able to
feel about himself. This will, in turn, carry over onto learning and
Sensory Integration Disorder is
easier to treat at the preschool level through "play" therapy. Once a
child gets older, it can be more challenging, due to the structured classroom
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