Sensory processing, sometimes called sensory integration, is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, or reading a book, your successful completion of the activity requires processing environmental sensations or "sensory integration." We all have sensory “preferences;” such as preferred tastes, optimal environment lighting, smells, and sounds, sensory processing only becomes a concern when it interferes significantly with everyday life.
Sensory processing becomes a ‘problem’ when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. The brain is unable to integrate sensory information of sight, sound, smell, taste, temperature, pain, body position and movement sensation adequately. Normally, the brain uses information from these senses in order for the body to make sense of, and interact with, the environment appropriately. Usually this process occurs automatically, without conscious thought.
However, for some children with inefficient sensory processing, extensive effort and attention is required to perform even the simplest tasks that should not require conscious thought. Sensory processing differences may cause children to over or under react to noise or sounds in their environment, can affect their ability to attend and learn new information, or interfere with motor control. Clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety and other impacts may result if coping strategies aren’t provided appropriately. When effective strategies are provided, increased focus, attentiveness, and independence will occur.
Ask your occupational therapist or contact Jones Therapy Services today for more information about how sensory processing strategies can benefit your child.
Cassie Swihart, OTD, OTR/L
Doctor of Occupational Therapy