As many as one in 20 kids has sensory integration challenges. What exactly does that mean? Sensory Integration is the process that allows the brain, nervous system and senses (including the tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular systems) to work together to perceive the world, organize and interpret these perceptions, and respond appropriately.
Healthy sensory development in young children helps the brain and nervous system learn to process and integrate the many messages from each of the sensory systems. This process requires activities that stimulate all of the child’s sensory systems, notably including complex movement and messy play. If your child has challenges with Sensory Integration, you probably know it, because you've noticed one or more of the following things about your child that seem extreme in comparison to other children or your own experience:
- They often bump into people and objects.
- They're highly sensitive and reactive to bright lights or loud noises.
- They seem over-reactive to minor irritations like clothing seams, hair brushing, face-washing.
- They have what seems like a compulsive need to touch everything.
- They are frightened of swings, slides or unstable surfaces.
- They are in constant motion, they love spinning, or they have a history of head-banging.
- They crave strong touch, or they shy away from it.
These are just some examples of sensory integration challenges that can be hard on children -- and on their parents. Happily, Occupational Therapists who specialize in Sensory Issues are gaining increasing skill in treating sensory issues in people of all ages. And the earlier you intervene, the faster your child changes, since the brain is more plastic at younger ages.