Sensory processing “refers to:
1) our ability to take in information through our seven senses: the basic five: (touch, smell, taste, vision, hearing) plus the “hidden two”: proprioception (sensations of body joints and muscles) and vestibular (sense of where the body is in space relative to the earth’s gravity),
2) our ability to organize and interpret the sensory information we perceive, and
3) our ability to make a meaningful response to the sensory information coming into our brains” (STAR Institute, 2017, p. VII.C.3).
People with sensory processing difficulties “may feel bombarded by [sensory] information, they may seek out intense sensory experiences, or they may be unaware of sensations that others feel. They may also have sensory-motor problems such as a weak body, clumsiness or awkwardness, or delayed motor skills” (STAR Institute, 2017, p. VII.C.3).
Sensory integration is “the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment” (Ayres, 1972, p. 11).
Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory integration therapy can be “defined as the use of selected activities that provide tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive experiences while encouraging adaptive responses” (Parham, Cohn, Spitzer, Koomar, & Miller, 2007, p. 221).
Sensory integration therapy consists of the following core process elements:
- Sensory opportunities involving tactile, vestibular, and/or proprioceptive experiences
- Tailoring activities according to the “just right challenge” to promote adaptive responses on the part of the child
- Actively collaborating with the child throughout the therapeutic process
- Guiding self-organization to encourage the child to initiate, plan, and develop ideas and activities
- Supporting the child to have fun while maintaining an optimal level of arousal
- Fostering the child’s intrinsic motivation via object, social, motor, or imaginary play
- Maximizing the child’s success by presenting and modifying activities
- Ensuring physical safety on the part of the child
- Arranging the physical space and equipment to motivate and engage the child
- Fostering a therapeutic alliance based on connection, trust, and emotional safety (Parham et al., 2007).