2Sensory Integration Take in information Process the information Respond to the information
3How our senses workOur central nervous system (brain) processes all the sensory information we receive and helps us to organize, prioritize, and understand the information. We then respond through thoughts, feelings, motor responses (behavior), or a combination of these.
4Sensory ProcessingWe have receptors all over our bodies that pick up sensory information or “stimuli”.Our hands and feet contain the most receptors.Most of the time we process sensory information automatically without needing to think about it.
5Sensory ProcessingPeople or children with sensory integration difficulties have difficulty with processing or taking in the sensory information.People or children who struggle with all of this information can sometimes become stressed or anxious.They can also possibly feel pain or may exhibit challenging behavior.
6Sensory IntegrationSensory integration should be well integrated by 8-10 years of age.
7How do I know if my child is having sensory processing difficulties? If your child is exhibiting behaviors or reacting to the extent that it is interfering with every day tasks or events. For example, you can’t give your child a bath or wash their face. You have a difficult time with putting clothes on them.Reactions or behaviors are extreme. For example, throwing themselves on the ground, covering their ears and running away.If your child is exhibiting the behavior across all settings. For example, covering their ears at a birthday party, at the gym, and when music is played.If your child is exhibiting behaviors in more than one area. Has a difficult time with loud noises, seeks all kinds of movement, and doesn’t like it when their hands get messy.
8Change in Arousal-Wilbarger Adaptation Sensory OverloadOptimal level of arousalLow arousal
11SightOur sight helps us define objects, people, colors, contrast and spatial boundaries.Sight helps us maintain our posture, define boundaries, and watch still or moving objects.
12Sight Hypo (under-sensitive) Hyper (over-sensitive) Objects appear quite dark, or lose some of their features.Central vision is blurred and peripheral vision is sharpCentral object can be magnified and peripheral is blurred.Poor depth perception-problems with throwing and catching; clumsinessPoor visual trackingAvoids looking at certain objects.Objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.Images may be incomplete.Easier to focus on details than the entire object.Eyes may tear up or appear red.Reacts adversely to bright light.Finger flaps in visual field.Stares at certain objects.
13SoundThis sense is the most commonly recognized form of sensory impairment. Hearing can affect someone’s ability to communicate and possibly also their balance.
14Hypo(under-responsive) Hyper (over-responsive) SoundHypo(under-responsive)Hyper (over-responsive)May only hear sounds in one ear.May not acknowledge particular soundsMight enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects.Difficulty with multi-step skills.Makes unusual or loud noises.Noises can be magnified and sounds can be distorted and muddled.Particularly sensitive to sounds and may hear conversations in the distance.Inability to cut out sounds and background noise, which can lead to difficulties concentrating.
15TouchTouch helps us to assess the environment we are in and we react accordingly. It also allows us to feel pain.
16Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) TouchHypo (under responsive)Hyper (over responsive)Holds others tightly or give hugs.Walks with hands on the wall or furniture.Enjoys heavy objects on top of them such as blankets.Poor localization.Poor awareness of when nose or mouth is dirty.May not know when they have been hurt.Touch can be painful or uncomfortable.Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.Difficulty with brushing and washing their hair because their head is sensitive.Only likes certain types of clothing or textures.Has a hard time with standing between children in line.Picky eater.
17TasteReceptors in our mouth tells us about different tastes; sweet, sour, and spicy. Taste is the weakest of the senses. Girls have move taste buds than boys.
18Taste Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Likes very spicy foodsEats everything-grass, Play-dough, non-food objects.May overstuff mouth.Has a restricted diet.Some flavors are too strong or overpowering because of sensitive taste buds.Certain textures can cause discomfort.Some may only eat smooth foods like mashed potatoes or ice-cream.
19SmellReceptors in our nose tells us about smells in our immediate environment. Smell is the first sense we rely upon. Girls are more sensitive to smell.
20Smell Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Some can fail to notice extreme odors, including own body odor.Some people may lick things to get a better sense of what they are.Examines items through smelling them.Inability to associate odors with memory.Smells can be intense and overpowering.Can dislike people with distinctive perfumes or shampoos.
21BalanceBalance is situated in the inner ear. This system helps us to maintain our balance and posture. It also helps us understand where and how fast our bodies are moving.
22Balance Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) May need to rock, swing, or spin to get inner ear input.Poor attention to task.Leans back in chairBangs headSpins self in a circle.Makes frequent trips around the room or to the bathroom.Have difficulties with activities like sports, or where one needs to control their movements.Have difficulties with stopping quickly or during an activity.May get car sickness.Have difficulties where the head is not upright or feet are off the ground.
23Body AwarenessThis sense is in the muscles and joints. The system tells us where our bodies are in space and how different our body parts are moving.
24Body Awareness Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) May stand too close to others because they can’t judge personal space.May have a hard time navigating rooms and avoiding obstructions.May bump into people or appear clumsyMay grind teeth or chew inappropriate items.May bang head or overstuff mouth.Falls out of chairMay have a difficult time with fine motor skills. For example, manipulating small objects like buttons or shoe laces.May move the whole body to look at something.Applies too much force on toys or pencils.
25Ways to HelpSmall changes to the environment can make a big difference!Be Aware: look at the surroundings to see if it is creating difficulties for your child. Can you change it?Be Creative: Think of some positive sensory experiences. For example sledding or going to the park.Be Prepared: Forewarn your child about the possible sensory stimuli they may experience.
26Sight Hypo (under-sensitive) Hyper (over-sensitive) Reduce fluorescent lighting-use deep colored light bulbs instead.Wear sunglasses.Use blackout curtains.Increase high contrast.
27Sound Hypo Hyper Use visual support to back up verbal information. Shut doors and windows to reduce external sounds.Prepare your child prior to going to noisy or crowded places.Wear ear plugs.Listen to music.
28Touch Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Use weighted blankets.Provide vibrating toys or massagers.Provide nontoxic, tot safe hand fidgets.Warn your child if you or someone are about to touch them.Remember that a hug may be painful rather than comforting.Gradually introduce different textures.Allow your child to complete or assist in activities themselves. (e.g.. Hair brushing and hands washing)
29TasteAs long as someone eats a bit of a varied diet, being hypo-responsive or hyper-responsive in this area may not necessarily be a problem.Consider eating in a quiet place rather than a noisy one.Gradually vary food temperatures.Offer assorted dips for finger foods.Find other times to play with food outside of mealtime (e.g. pudding or gelatin).Sneak fruits or vegetables into muffin mixes, pancake batter, or hamburgers.Try lots of foods that melt quickly in their mouth such as cheese curls or puffed cereals.
30Smell Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Use strong smelling products to distract students from inappropriate smelling.Allow your tot to hold a scarf with your cologne.While traveling take time to stop and smell different items.Use unscented detergents or shampoosAvoid wearing perfumeMake the environment as fragrance-free as possible.
31Balance Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Encourage rocking, swings, and seesaws.Use toys that move or rotate.Play jumping or hopping games.Bounce on a ball.Break down activities into small more easily manageable steps.Jump on a trampolineProvide frequent movement breaks during sedentary activities.Dance
32Body Awareness Hypo (under responsive) Hyper (over responsive) Position furniture around the edge of the room to make navigation easier.Use arm’s length rule to judge personal space.Carry heavy items (e.g. grocery bags)Chewy or crunchy foods.Draw shapes on child’s backDoes fine motor activities and not gross motor .Participate in household chores (e.g. vacuum, dust, carry laundry basket)
33ReferencesRoseann Schaaf, Susanne Smith Roley (2006). Sensory Integration; Applying Clinical Reasoning to Practice with Diverse Populations.Diana Henry (2007). Tools for Tots.The National Autistic Society (2014). The Sensory World of Autism.Diane Corson, OTR/L (2009). A Guide to Implementing Sensory Strategies in the Classroom Setting.