What is Sensory Integration?
Sensory Integration is the way a person takes information from the senses (sights, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, movement), processes it and responds to it. We are all individuals and all process sensory information slightly differently, however, some individuals have deficits in their ability to receive and/or process information from the senses. A person may not be receiving information from a sense or may under react or over react to information being received. Below are brief descriptions of the senses and some examples of how poor processing in each area might affect a student.
Visual- how one processes information from the eyes (sights). A student who has difficulty processing visual information might encounter frustration when trying to find items in their desk or have trouble concentrating when working in an area where there are lots of art projects hanging from the ceiling.
Auditory- how one processes information from the ears (sounds). A student who has trouble processing auditory information may not realize when the teacher says it’s time to clean up or may start crying at the sound of a fire alarm.
Tactile- how one processes information from the different layers of the skin (touch). A student having difficulty processing tactile information may not feel when he/she gets food on their face during lunch (and subsequently doesn’t wipe it off) or may lash out at a peer if the peer bumps them slightly when standing in line to go to the next class.
Olfactory- how one processes information from the nose (smells). A student who is having difficulty processing smells may not realize when they have strong body odor or may feel sick in the lunchroom when certain foods are served.
Gustatory- how one processes information from the mouth (tastes). A person who has difficulty processing taste may prefer strong flavored foods or may be a picky eater who limits their diet to only a few foods.
Proprioceptive- how one processes information from the muscles and joints (body position, force of movement). A student who has trouble processing proprioceptive information may tend to be clumsy and not be able to do things without looking.
Vestibular- how one processes movement information. A student who has difficulty processing vestibular information may have problems with balance or may fear some types of movement such as having their feet off the ground when swinging.
When a student shows significant difficulty with processing information from the senses, then they are generally referred to the occupational therapist for evaluation. Most students at one time or another have had difficulty keeping their nervous system at an appropriate arousal level for learning. Because of this, all of the third grades at Marston school have been introduced to the program "How Does Your Engine Run" written by Mary Sue Williams and Sherry Shellenberger. This program helps students learn how to regulate their body energy so that they can be in a "just right" state for learning.