This answer was taken directly from the Harbor Children’s Therapy FAQ.
Sensory integration is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the body’s basic sensory systems and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. The normal process of sensory integration begins before birth and continues through life. Sensory integration is necessary for almost every activity that we perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us to understand and interact with our surroundings. Sensory integration (SI) is a theory that was first pioneered by A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D., OTR in the 1960’s. Ayres’ initial work on the SI theory instigated ongoing research that looked at the crucial foundation that SI provides for complex learning and behavior throughout life.
Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) is a neurological disorder that results from the brain’s inability to integrate information received from body sensations (sight, sounds, smell, tastes, temperatures, and the position and movements of the body). It is a condition that exists when sensory signals don't get organized into appropriate responses. Ayres likened this disorder to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. It is therefore difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.
Factors that contribute to sensory integration dysfunction include: premature birth, autism, learning disabilities, maternal substance abuse, stress-related disorders, brain injury and attention-deficit disorder. The two largest contributing conditions are autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.
The resources in this toolkit are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgement of a licensed healthcare professional.For independent exploration, we recommend the following resources:
It is important to consult with your primary care provider and an occupational therapist who is well-versed in sensory integration theory and treatment.
In Summer 2016, Harbor Children’s Therapy submitted a Graduate Project proposal to the University of Washington’s Master of Occupational Therapy Program. This proposal requested student involvement in the design of a resource for families with children receiving services for sensory processing challenges. The tool would function by exploring the sensory preferences of caregivers and their children to provide focused activity and environmental suggestions with the ultimate objective of normalizing sensory preferences in daily life.
University of Washington students Annie Brandjord, Lauren Eykholt, and Hilary Figgs, faculty supervisor Dr. Janet Powell, and website developer Grant Butler partnered with Harbor Children’s Therapy to design and develop this specialized toolkit. The students gathered information through a scoping review of current research in the field of sensory integration, as well as a needs assessment drawing on input from Harbor Children’s Therapy staff, clinic families, and observations from leaders in the field.
The tool was launched in beta testing in April 2017 with a small group of parents and caregivers at the Harbor Children’s Therapy clinic in Gig Harbor, WA. Their experiences and feedback were vital in the completion of this tool.
The final toolkit was released to the public in June 2017.
This tool was created solely as an informal resource. We recommend that you use your own judgment when trying out new activity strategies for you and your child. Information here should never replace advice from a healthcare provider, and we advise that you always consult with a licensed healthcare provider and an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration when attempting new activities or interventions.
There are many ways to classify sensory preferences. This tool is unique in that it explores sensory preferences and relationships, but it is not the only resource to be considered, and it is possible that the suggestions here will not be relevant to you, your family, or your lifestyle. Sensory preferences and relationship impacts are a largely unexplored topic, and we encourage critical thinking and feedback about all of the information provided. If you have questions about trying some of these activities, consult your licensed healthcare provider. Additionally, if you have feedback or concerns about this tool, please let us know.
First, we recommend that you read all of the descriptions available to see if you can find one that feels like a more accurate match in the moment. The tool is based on the philosophy that we all experience sensory preferences existing along a spectrum, which can change from day to day. Additionally, you may identify with aspects of multiple categories (for example, some people may love loud music, but dislike playing with messy materials). We encourage you to explore this resource broadly and to use your judgment to pull out activities and suggestions that are a good fit for your circumstances. We encourage you to mix and match suggestions as best fits your needs.
We recommend that you read all of the descriptions available to see if you can find a pair that feels like a more accurate match for you and/or your child. The tool is based on the philosophy that sensory preferences exist along a spectrum, and everyone experiences them in a unique way that may change depending on situation or context. Additionally, you may identify with aspects of multiple categories (for example, some people may love loud music, but dislike playing with messy materials). We encourage you to explore this resource broadly and use your judgement to pull out activities and suggestions that are a good fit for your circumstances. We encourage you to mix and match suggestions as best fits your needs.
There are many ways to classify sensory preferences, with the foundational ideas posed here being only one of them. This tool’s intention is to provide information about sensory preferences and how having different sensory styles can impact a relationship. Bearing in mind that a range of factors influence relationships, this tool provides one perspective on the influence of sensory preferences and caregiver-child connections.
If you have a question about the use of this tool or a comment about this tool, please contact us. If you are seeking medical advice or have concerns about sensory processing, seek advice from a licensed healthcare professional.