Sensory Integration - What is Sensory Integration Disorder?

Sensory Integration and Concentration
Sensory Integration and Concentration. Sensory Integration - Getty


Sensory integration disorder is the inability of the neurological system to appropriately manage input from the senses. This can cause an over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and/or touch.

Sensory integration theory suggests that people with over-sensitivity, or hypersensitivity, are overwhelmed by elements in their environment and cannot ignore unimportant environmental information. To cope, many avoid irritating input. A student hypersensitive to noise may refuse to enter a noisy classroom, cover his ears, become agitated, or leave the area. These coping behaviors may be mistaken for misbehavior.

People with under-sensitivity, or hyposensitivity, have limited perception of sensory information. Their inability to process what they hear, see, smell, taste, and/or feel can cause them difficulty in communicating with others, understanding visual information, and completing hands-on tasks in school. Students with limited sensitivity, for example, may not sense pain and could be at risk for injuring themselves without knowing it.

Occupational and physical therapy and speech services can improve some types of sensory problems. Therapy is frequently most effective when provided from early childhood through adolescence. To increase effectiveness of interventions, parents and teachers should embed therapeutic activities into the child's daily activities. Occupational and physical therapists can assist in teaching parents and teachers creative ways to do this.

Occupational, physical, and speech therapists can help with recognizing the need for intervention and developing strategies to reduce any related behaviors that present a safety problem, are disruptive, or are socially inappropriate.

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Also Known As: sensory integration dysfunction, tactile defensiveness, hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity, sensory integration syndrome

Examples: Students with sensory integration disorders need positive coping strategies, and parents and therapists may need to educate others to help them understand that coping behaviors are not willful misbehavior.

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