Loch Arbour Sensory Motor Integration
Empowered Learning Transformation Centers
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Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing
Sensory Integration is the neurological method by which people receive, incorporate and interpret information from the environment. People receive input from the seven senses: auditory, visual, touch (tactile), smell (olfactory), taste (gustatory), proprioceptive (muscle sense) and vestibular (movement sense). Once the input is received, it is processed so the brain can decide if the input is important and what its properties are. Once this is determined, the brain directs the body to react accordingly, generating an adaptive response. Sensory Processing Disorder occurs when a person is not able to generate an adaptive motor response to his environment because this process is disrupted in some way. A person’s level of arousal is closely tied into their ability to interpret sensory input and generate adaptive responses. If a person is above or below his “optimal level of arousal,” it will be difficult to access higher-level motor and cognitive skills to be able to generate adaptive responses to the environment.
Sensory modulation is the process through which the brain decides if information is important or not. If the information is extraneous, it is filtered out. This is the brain’s filter, and if it is not working, the person may be unable to tune out background input or may interpret input stronger than it is presented. These inputs can be overwhelming and often result in the person being in a high level of arousal. Someone who has modulation difficulties may be in “fight or flight mode” and will have trouble sustaining focus on a task at hand. Furthermore, it is difficult for the brain to discriminate input if the input is not modulated correctly.
Sensory discrimination is when the brain makes sense of the information it receives. Without fully understanding sensory input, a person will have decreased skills. The individual might be uncoordinated or unable to complete motor tasks. Often a person with trouble discriminating input will look for additional input in order to get more information to better understand, resulting in sensory seeking behaviors. Discrimination of different types of inputs leads to different functional outcomes. When the brain successfully discriminates sensory input, it allows the individual to build skills.
A person can have a modulation or discrimination issue in just one sense or across multiple senses. The severity of the sensory processing deficit as well as the sense or combination of senses that it impacts changes the way Sensory Processing Disorder looks and impacts an individual. People who have sensory integration challenges might have difficulty focusing, poor handwriting and other fine motor skills or difficulty with transitions. They might have been delayed in their developmental milestones or may be hypersensitive to certain sounds, movements or feels. They might be picky eaters or refusers of food.
As each person with sensory challenges looks different, Sensory Integration intervention looks different for each person as well. Sensory Integration intervention is a method of intervention done by Occupational Therapists that is based in Sensory Integration theory created by Empowered Learning Transformation Centers. It is based on the idea that a meaningful, enhanced sensory experience can change the way the nervous system functions to help increase the integration of input. Each session is individualized and, for children, takes place in a fun, playful environment.
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