The following post was writting by Marcia Washington OTR/L, who has been practicing pediatric occupational therapy for 20 years.
Parents often ask me –
What is sensory integration and how can I help my child with it?
Here’s my explanation:
Picture yourself in the middle of a lake sitting in a row boat. You stand up to see something off in the distance. When you stand up, you feel the unsteady movement underneath your feet. Are you able to steady yourself as the boat moves under you? You decide the view is breathtaking and pull your camera up to your face from around your neck. You are now looking through a lens and focusing on a distant picture all while maintaining control of your body on an unsteady surface.
How well are you able to do this, would this be a high challenge for you or not even take a second thought? Are your senses fully integrated during that challenge, can you meet the demands of the task? This is sensory integration.
We all have sensory “preferences” and things that cause us to feel an imbalance to our nervous system. However, if you are able to maintain a steady control from the outside in: body in space, senses in check and emotions not exploding continuously then you are experiencing typical sensory integration. Your coping skills allow you to stay “in check.”
Sensory integration means our senses are complementing each other rather than out of balance. Our senses are more than the 5 outward senses we learn as a young child in the classroom. Yes, they include hearing, tasting, smelling, seeing and touch. However, they also include the vestibular sense and the proprioceptive sense, which give us information from inside our bodies and helps us balance and coordinate our movements.
What are the Vestibular Senses?
The vestibular system is very important to a child’s early development. The vestibular sense perceives balance, spacial orientation, and equilibrium. This system relays information to the brain that tells us where we are in space in relation to gravity.
If our vestibular system is not functioning well, we would not be able to stand in that row boat.
What is the Proprioceptive Sense?
Proprioreception is your inner experience of where your body is and what it’s doing. It’s what allows us to pick up the camera and plant our feet to stabilize our bodies in the row boat. Proprioceptors are found in our muscles and tell us where our bodies are and what our bodies are doing.
I love this link. It guides our understanding of sensory experiences with great information. “5 key benefits of sensory play” and the “pyramid to learning” which explains our foundation to appropriate responses to sensory input. https://www.teach-me-mommy.com/benefits-of-messy-sensory-play/