Sensory integration is a normal, neurological, developmental life. Although, it is
important to note, the most influential developmental time is in the first seven
years of life. Sensory processing is the process by which our brain takes in
sensory input and interprets this information for use.
When talking about typical sensory processing, a productive, normal and
“adaptive response” happens as;
• Our neurological system takes in sensory information
• the brain organizes and makes sense of it
• which then enables us to use it and act accordingly within our environment to
achieve “increasingly complex, goal-directed actions”.
It is this “adaptive response” which facilitates normal development.
We, therefore use our sensory processing abilities for:
• social interaction
• motor skill development
• focusing and attending so we can learn
If this neurological process becomes disrupted somewhere in the loop of intake,
organization or output, then normal development and adaptive responses will not
Learning, physical and emotional development, as well as behavior will therefore
be impacted; sometimes severely.
It is this disruption which yields a neurological dysfunction called Sensory
Integration Dysfunction/Sensory Processing Disorder.
Keep in mind, sensory processing functions on a continuum. Please understand
that we all have difficulty processing certain sensory stimuli (a certain touch,
smell, taste, sound, movement etc.) and we all have sensory preferences.
It only becomes a sensory processing disorder when we are on extreme ends of
the continuum or experience “disruptive, unpredictable fluctuations which
significantly impact our developmental skills or everyday functioning”.
That being said, it is important for us to break the sensory integration dysfunction
symptoms down into categories based on each of the senses.
These categories are:
• TACTILE: the sense of touch; input from the skin receptors about touch,
pressure, temperature, pain and movement of the hairs on the skin.
• VESTIBULAR: the sense of movement; input from the inner ear about
equilibrium, gravitational changes, movement experiences and position in space.
• AUDITORY: input relating to sounds; one's ability to correctly perceive,
discriminate, process and respond to sounds
• ORAL: input relating to the mouth; one's ability to correctly perceive,
discriminate, process and respond to input within the mouth
• OLFACTORY: input relating to smell; one's ability to correctly perceive,
discriminate, process and respond to different odors.
• VISUAL: input relating to sight; one's ability to correctly perceive, discriminate,
process and respond to what one sees.
We all have some types of sensory preferences and perhaps even a mild case of
"dysfunction". However, it is the frequency, intensity, duration and function impact
of these symptoms which determines dysfunction.
If you personally know, have a child, or observe a child with a sensory
integration/sensory processing disorder, you WILL observe particular "behavioral
indicators" which will make the "diagnosis" a plausible, possible, and real
consideration or explanation.
As with any diagnosis, the key is finding the correct one so proper treatment can
A Sensory Processing/Sensory Integration Disorder is certainly not the easiest
diagnosis for an "untrained eye" to make.
Through no fault of their own, many pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and
other professionals have not been properly educated on the causes, signs and
symptoms of this disorder. Therefore, they may mistakenly dismiss parental
concerns, give them the wrong advice, or misdiagnose the child. This, in turn, may
cause professionals to put a child on unnecessary medication or into treatment
(or lack of treatment) that will not help them deal with the real underlying issue.
• A sensory integration disorder is a neurological disorder; not a spoiled child, a
product of bad parenting, ADD, ADHD, defiant child or a mental illness. Although,
it is important to note, any of these could co-exist with a sensory processing
• We are talking about reactions to specific sensory input. It is about how this
input is taken in, organized, and utilised to interpret one's environment and make
the body ready to learn, move, regulate energy levels and emotions, interact and
• When sensory integration dysfunctions symptoms appear, they must be taken
seriously as early as possible and be treated properly by a knowledgeable