Sensory Integration Therapy
What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?
SPD is a condition in which a person is unable to use the information gathered with the senses for easy functioning in everyday life. It is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organised into appropriate responses; a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioural problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
A policeman directing the traffic at the crossroads directs the vehicles just like our brain directs the information that reaches it. If the pieces of information (vehicles) flow in an organised fashion and, on their way, join other sensations gathered earlier, the brain uses them for proper behaviour and knowledge absorption. If the flow of such information is not organised, chaos prevails and life looks like a traffic jam during rush hours.
Sensory Processing Disorder is most commonly diagnosed in children, but people who reach adulthood without treatment also experience symptoms and continue to be affected by their inability to accurately and appropriately interpret sensory messages.
What is Sensory Integration Therapy?
Therapy employing the Sensory Integration method looks like fun, but it is ‘scientific’ fun through which the nervous system and the brain learn how to correctly respond to external stimuli. The atmosphere of fun favours the child’s involvement in the activity and the achievement of better and faster progress. Therapeutic classes take place once or twice a week (depending on the child’s needs) and last for 50 minutes. They are conducted by a qualified sensory integration therapist.
During specially selected motor play activities taking place in a room specially adapted and fitted with proper equipment for the stimulation of the vestibular, proprioceptive, touch, sight, hearing, and smell systems, the child naturally makes up for the deficits within individual sensory apparatuses.
During the classes the child is encouraged and guided to perform activities leading to minimisation of their developmental deficits. The degree of difficulty of these activities is gradually increasing with the progress the child makes. They cannot be too easy or too difficult. SI therapy does not accept failures, and every exercise should end with success. Another important aspect of this therapy is the patient’s motivation. It plays a huge role when selecting activities. The therapist allows for great freedom in the selection of games and exercises to some children, while others are offered activities specially selected for them. The children are encouraged to initiate and actively participate in play activities. The Sensory Integration therapy is usually pleasant to the child, but also requires great commitment and sometimes a lot of effort. The therapist's role is to skilfully encourage and provoke the child to be active even when certain kinds of play activities and exercises evoke their dislike or fear.
Who is the SI Therapy For?
Sensory integration is one of the most modern and effective methods applied in the therapy of children and teenagers who display difficulties with regard to:
Motor skills (poor motor coordination, retarded motor development, difficulties with keeping balance);
Emotional problems (excessive activity, irritability, problems with focusing attention); delayed speech development;
Mastering school techniques (problems of dyslexia, dysgraphia, dysorthography, problems with remembering and motivation for learning);
Hyperactivity (ADHD, ADD);
Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to various sensory stimuli;
Hypersensitivity to motion (negative response to motion, motion sickness).
As confirmed by many experiments conducted by therapists, it is also effective for children with:
Fragile X syndrome;
Other multiple disorders;
Risk groups: prematurely born children, children with perinatal injuries.
Literature indicates that SI disorders may affect up to 45% of the population.
What is the Assessment Process?
Sensory integration therapy can be conducted after the completion of comprehensive examinations by qualified therapists.
The assessment and diagnosis of an SPD consists of:
1. Interview/ Developmental History with parents/ guardians (45-60mins) – refers to the course of pregnancy, birth and development of the child in the infancy period, past diseases as well information and opinions of other specialists.
2. Clinical Observations (60-90mins) – the child is observed in spontaneous activity and in task situations where they are to perform specific tasks or exercises helping to diagnose them and check the muscle tone, balance mechanisms, eye functioning, motor coordination and retained tonic reflexes.
Questionnaires - the parents fill in detailed questionnaires concerning the child’s functioning in everyday life. Let us remember that it is the parent who knows their child best and is the child’s best observer.
3. Classroom Observations (90-120mins) – the child is observed at school both in the classroom and playground environment helping to identify behavioural, social and sensory behaviours at school.
Interview & Questionnaire - the teacher will be interviewed and asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire concerning your child’s functioning and behavioural profile at school.
4. Diagnosis summary – includes a full report discussing the results of individual tests and examinations, and recommendations put forward by a qualified therapist.
In some circumstances, we use the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test to determine the profile of maturity of senses and their integration. They comprise of several parts examining such functions as the ability to plan motor actions (praxic movements), the ability to locate a tactile stimulus, smoothness and coordination of movement, the ability to keep balance, the feeling of the body and arm’s movements. The majority of tests are designed for children over the age of 4. Younger children and children for whom the tests cannot be used (e.g. with mental disability, autistic children, uncooperative children) are examined with the help of selected trials of clinical observation and additional fitness tests. The qualified therapist will select the appropriate testing for your child.