WHAT IS SENSORY INTEGRATION?
Sensory integration describes the theory of normal nervous system development first proposed in the 1970s by Dr A J Ayres: it is the process by which sensory information from the environment is organised and integrated by the brain and central nervous system (CNS) allowing appropriate responses to the environment for survival and engagement. This continuous feedback process of registering and learning from our environment, and planning and executing what we need to do in response, is foundational to our life-long learning of new motor skills, as well as contributing to our social and emotional wellbeing.
Where there is atypical or inefficient processing of sensory information, predictable patterns of behaviours can be observed, including attentional difficulties; achieving and maintaining an appropriate level of alertness; under- or over-reaction to sensations which are comfortable to other people; postural and movement skills which are less well co-ordinated and timed than those of other people.
Developments in the field of SI consider the interaction between the attachment environment in which a child is conceived and born and the early development and coding of sensory information, specifically looking at the action of the brain’s self-protective mechanisms in the limbic system.
WHAT'S THE CONNECTION WITH SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPY?
One of the first things necessary for communication and conversation - that flow of ideas and choices from one person to another, in whatever form that communication takes - is joint attention. The people involved in the conversation must share a focus on what is being talked about, and on each other. They must notice the signals are being sent and received. It becomes a conversation, in effect, when I know you are listening to me and I am listening to you.
Communication and interaction begin at birth, from the first early bonding experiences between parent and child. Early connections are made through the feeling of being held, and the smell of your parent, as much as through sound and vision. The scene is set for a lifetime of connections and conversations.
Even at this very early stage, sensory processing differences can get in the way. A baby (or a parent) with sensory modulation difficulties, who struggles to notice or, conversely, to cope with the intensity of the sensory information in that experience will perhaps give signals which are very different from what is expected. The nature of the bond is changed, perhaps the connections aren't made.
There is good news. Human brains are amazing. Change is possible, and under the right circumstances people can tap into their inner drive to connect with each other, to share their experiences, to communicate. Adaptive responses - new and comfortable ways of understanding and responding to the sensory challenges of the environment - occur right the way across the lifespan.
It is never too late to find new ways to engage, participate and communicate.
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Sam T, Worthing
"Amy came to a professional day for SaLTs across West Sussex yesterday and gave a presentation on Sensory Integration. She was eloquent and inspiring, I heard nothing but praise and enthusiasm from my colleagues about the session. We all came away with ideas we could immediately use in our work with children at all ages and stages."
Speech and Language Therapist
"I wanted to thank you for such a brilliant presentation. I was mesmerized and wanted to hear more. I think sensory integration difficulties are such a huge part of the lives of many of the children I see for therapy and explains so many of their behaviours"
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