Sensory integration therapy aims to help kids with sensory processing issues by exposing them to sensory stimulation in a structured, repetitive way.
In traditional SI therapy, the OT exposes a child to sensory stimulation through repetitive activities.
The OT gradually makes activities more challenging and complex. The idea is that through repetition, your child’s nervous system will respond in a more “organized” way to sensations and movement.
Autism’s symptoms often include difficulty processing sensory information such as textures, sounds, smells, tastes, brightness and movement. These difficulties can make ordinary situations feel overwhelming. As such, they can interfere with daily function and even isolate individuals and their families.
Sensory integration therapy is one technique used by occupational therapists (OTs). Through fun and play-based activities, OTs attempt to change how the brain reacts to touch, sound, sight, and movement.
Sometimes, one sensory area is over-responsive (hyperresponsive) while another needs more information (hyporesponsive). For instance, if a child’s tactile system is over-responsive, she/he may feel pain or discomfort touching something sticky. Further, she/he may completely shut down and show behavioural issues.
While every session will be different depending on your child’s needs, here is an example session with some sensory integration therapy activities.
The OT may begin the treatment session with an obstacle course which the child views as a fun challenge. However, the course was carefully designed to provide sensory input to her joints and calming pressure to her body. Large motor, physical activities are organizing to the senses, the OT may include playing in ball pits to target the tactile system. The purpose of this sensory stimulation is to regulate and prepare her/his system for the next activity.
Next comes a fun puzzle. However, the puzzle pieces may be placed into a sticky or wet substance such as slime or water beads placed into a bin.
The child often has so much fun playing the game that the child forgets she/he is placing her/his hands into the very thing she/he doesn’t like! With this sensory experience, now the child is starting to adapt her/his hyperresponsivity to the messy texture.