Parental education about the sensory issues and reason of behavior that the child exhibits is most important to understand the child's problem and trying to support him/her to better cope with the environment loaded with multiple sensory inputs such as sounds, touch, smells etc. Even teachers needs to be educated about these issues in order for children to perform well at school. Parents know their child best so they can provide the necessary information to the teacher about the sensory issues their child is facing.
A parent can incorporate sensory integration into the home by providing many different opportunities for a child to move in different ways and feel different things. A sensory diet under the supervision of an occupational therapist can be implemented at the home, school and community environments. Similar to nutritional diets, the sensory diet is designed to meet your child's sensory needs. It is a carefully designed, personalized daily schedule of sensory enriched activities, equipment, and strategies to help a person stay focused and organized throughout the day. Eg. Providing movement beaks like having kids jump on a trampoline can work to fulfill their sensory needs which further enhance their ability to focus on studies.
Occupational Therapists having specialized training in Sensory Integration can provide Sensory Integration therapy.
Sensory Integration (SI) is implemented in Specialized Clinical Setups, hospitals or schools where there is enough opportunity for multisensory input. Safety is taken into consideration where children are getting exposed to different equipment such as swing, trampoline, and trapeze.
The main principles of therapy are:
the child must be able to successfully meet the challenges that are presented through playful activities.
the child adapts his/her behaviour with new and useful strategies in response to the challenges presented,
the child will want to participate because the activities are fun.
the child's preferences are used to initiate therapeutic experiences within the session.
Sensory Integration works closely with occupational therapy and can be started as and when ASD is diagnosed and also if you suspect your child has any sensory difficulties. It is best advisable to consult an occupational therapist when your child has difficulty in daily tasks. A child's behavior is a form of communication and a qualified occupational therapist can help to understand the issues. Sensory issues can stand alone or come along with many medical, cognitive, and stress-related conditions. When provided correctly and if the child's system responds well, sensory integration therapy can significantly help children live an improved quality of life. Each child and his/her needs are different and hence therapy has to be tailored to meet the specific requirements of theirs.
Sensory integration therapy focuses primarily on three basic (power) senses—tactile (touch), vestibular (movement), and proprioceptive (pressure).
This system provides information to the brain about the various types of touch that includes light touch, different textures, pain, temperature and pressure. It plays a vital role in perceiving things around us and in the environment, and also serves as a protective reactions for survival.
Dysfunction in the tactile system can be seen in either the child seeking or avoiding certain kinds of touch or textures. The child can withdraw himself when being touched, or be a picky eater like refusing to eat certain 'textured' foods and/or avoid/like certain types of clothing, resistive behaviour while cutting hair, nails, or brushing teeth or washing face,does not like to be messy or fingers getting dirty, (i.e. by clay, while picking up textured food,mud, finger-paint), It also lead to a mis-perception of touch and/or pain (hyper- or hypo-sensitive) and may lead to decreased awareness of self in environment, irritability, distractibility, and hyperactivity.
The vestibular system or balance system refers to structures within the inner ear (the semicircular canals) that identifies various movement of head and body in plane or various directions. For example, the vestibular system tells you when your head is upright or tilted (even with your eyes closed).
Dysfunction leads to under or over active responses to vestibular input. Some children may be hypersensitive to vestibular stimulation (e.g., swings, slides, ramps, inclines) They may also have trouble in execution of movements needed to climb or descend stairs, ramps or ladders, and they may be apprehensive in balancing oneself on uneven surfaces.
On the other extreme, the child may be always occupied in actively seeking very intense sensory experiences such as excessive spinning around oneself, running in circles in a room, looking for spinning objects, or body whirling, i.e., they try to continuously gratify their vestibular systems.
The proprioceptive system refers to components of muscles, joints, and tendons that provide awareness of body position, joint or kinesthesia sense. For example, the proprioceptive system is responsible for mechanical corrections or adjustments needed by the body to function appropriately: consciously or subconsciously. It also allows us for manipulation of objects for gross and fine motor movements, such as climbing, jumping, pulling, pushing, and fine movements like typing, painting, writing, using a spoon to drink or eat, and buttoning or unbuttoning.
Some common signs of proprioceptive dysfunction are sloppiness and clumsiness, imbalance, wide base gait, a lack of awareness of body position in space, odd body posturing, difficulty in changing positions, walking backwards, crawling, and difficulty manipulating small objects (buttons, snaps),
Another dimension of proprioception is praxis or motor planning. This is the ability to plan and execute different motor tasks. When this system doesn't work properly dyspraxia occurs in which a children struggle with various activities involving motor planning in areas of self care, play, sports, and handwriting,
A child may be over or under responsive to sensory input so arousal level of the child in play will be high or low, hyperactive or hypotonic, energetic or lethargic, or can fluctuate between these extremes.
Gross and/or fine motor coordination problems are also common when these three systems are dysfunctional and may result in delay in speech/language and academic or scholastic areas. Behaviorally, the child may become easily irritable, impulsive, distractible, and show delay in motor planning. Some children may face difficulty in adjustments to new situations and may react with stimming, frustration, aggression, or self isolation.
Sensory integration therapy is a technique used by occupational therapists through fun and play-based activities. It attempts to change how the brain responds to touch, sound, sight and movement.
Your therapist would begin by assessing your child's sensory system. They would then introduce your child to specifically designed activities to stimulate, organize and challenge all of his/her senses. The aim of sensory integration therapy is to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information so your child will function more adaptively in his/her daily activities.
If your child does show signs of difficulty in sensory processing, such as oversensitivity to textures, sounds, smells, fear of climbing down stairs, poor eye contact, etc. he/she may need Sensory Integration Therapy, and you would be advised to refer to your therapist for the same.
Sensory Integration is the ability to process sensory information from the world around us and builds the foundation for learning new skills. Sensory Integration for most of us occurs easily whilst we are doing everyday activities. It is something that just happens without effort and without being aware of it. For some children and adults, especially those with Autism, sensory information doesn't get organised quite the way it should.
Sensory processing issues in children with Autism, can prove to be an obstacle to their ability to learn and respond to the environment appropriately. You may have noticed that your child with autism may show some oversensitivity to touch/ smell/ sound, being scared of moving equipments / climbing down stairs, poor eye contact, etc. They may also show a lack of awareness about their own body, or about the surrounding and seem lost in own world. They may have different motor mannerism, poor imitation skills, lack of appropriate play behavior etc.
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