Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Modulation Dysfunction

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Sensory Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Modulation Dysfunction

Sensory integration is the ability of the brain to organise and process sensory information from the visual, auditory, vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive sensory systems. A sensory integration dysfunction occurs when there is an inability to adequately interpret these sensations. Based on initial work by Jean Ayres (1972) as a theoretical framework for occupational therapy that has practical implications . It provides an alternative explanation for deviations in function, learning and behaviour

Sensory integration is a natural part of development and occurs dynamically throughout development. Children are typically sensory seeking – they seek out sensory information. It appears that sensory input is capable of enhancing neural connectivity.

The three major postulates of sensory integrative theory are
1) Learning is dependant on the ability to take in and process sensation from movement and the environment and use it to plan and organise behaviour
2) Individuals who have decreased ability to process sensation also may have difficulty producing appropriate actions, which, in turn, may interfere with learning and behaviour
3) Enhanced sensation, as a part of meaningful activity hat yields an adaptive interaction, improves the ability to process sensation, thereby enhancing learning and behaviour

Sensory integrative approaches are used in a number of developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, fragile X syndrome, premature birth, prenatal drug exposure and hearing impairment.

Identification of defects in sensory processing (adapted from Blanche & Nakasuji , 2001):
Tactile defensiveness/hyper-responsiveness to tactile input:
• Object to being handled when not wearing clothes
• Struggle against being held
• Object to light touch
• Startle easily when being touched lightly or unexpectedly
• Push the clinicians hand away
• Rub or scratch the part of the body that has been touched
• avoids touching certain textures or surfaces
• unwilling to wear foot orthoses
• avoids barefoot on grass or sand
• dislikes finger/toe nails being cut
• walking on tip toes to minimise contact with ground

Proprioception processing:
• fails to adjust the body in response to changes in position
• bumps or crashes into objects
• grinding of teeth
• likes shoes or buckles tightly fastened
• has difficulty going up or down stairs
• leans into clinicians hands when being examined
• can’t stand on one foot

Vestibular Dysfunction:
• objects to having feet leave the ground
• fearful of swinging, spinning and sliding
• overreact when moved in space
• dislikes sudden or quick movements
• sits in ‘W’ position to stabilise self
• unable to catch self from falling
• poor gross motor skills – frequently trips
• difficulty moving hands and feet together such as jumping or catching

Occupational Therapy

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Page last updated: Jul 28, 2022 @ 9:44 pm

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