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Sensory Integration Dysfunction

In the 1970s occupational therapist Jean Ayres described sensory integration dysfunction: a nerve disorder producing inefficient organization of sensory input received by the nervous system. The dysfunction happens in the central nervous system (which includes the brain). When neurological processing is faulty, the brain can't integrate (analyze, organize, connect) sensory messages.

Children deprived of touch, movement and sound (in an orphanage, for example) may exhibit SID. They may be: overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights or sound; under-reactive to sensory stimulation (such as pain); seek out intense sensory experiences (body whirling); show co-ordination problems or delays in speech, motor skills or academic achievement.

A child with SID can't respond to sensory information in order to behave in a meaningful, consistent way; and may also have trouble planning and organizing, and thus have trouble learning.

Which children have SID? It's usually a considerable, though secondary, problem for children with fetal alcohol syndrome and often interferes with the development of children adopted after stays in orphanages. It may also be found in children with learning disabilities or attention deficits.

Carol Stock Kranowitz defines SID as the inability to process information received through the senses. She says that the child doesn't function smoothly, not because she won't, but because she can't. She has a disorganized brain and consequently disorganized behaviour. She could have enormous trouble doing ordinary tasks and responding to everyday events.

Sharon Cermak, professor of occupational therapy at Boston University, studied sensory deprivation in Romanian orphanage children. In many orphanages in economically-deprived countries children had multiple caregivers who, through understaffing, ignorance and disinterest, tended to their needs with as little contact as possible. Rooms were bare of stimulating mobiles, toys or music. This impoverished early environment adversely affected development, impairing perceptual skills.

The underlying cause is unknown. All we can do is make a general statement covering all the possible causes, the same ones as for ADHD, learning disabilities, developmental delays, etc.: heredity; prenatal drug abuse or illness; prematurity; birth trauma; postnatal neglect or abuse.

Early treatment is called for, using occupational therapy focussing on sensory integration and recreational activities that strengthen basic sensory and motor skills.

AND Canada, Rehabilitation programs for individuals with neurological disabilities. Assn. for the Neurologically Disabled of Canada.
Hemi-Sync and the Facilitation of Sensory Integration, 5-10% of our children have problems with sensory integration, causing learning disabilities. Suzanne Evans Morris, 1990.
Out-of-Sync Child, Clinics, therapies, publications and events for those coping with sensory processing disorder. Carol Stock Kranowitz.
Pocket Full of Therapy, Therapy products and toys for occupational therapists. Morganville NJ.
Promoting Attachment Through the Senses, Excerpted from Launching a Baby's Adoption, 1997. Pat Johnston.
Sensory Equipment - Flaghouse, Sensory therapy products and adaptive living tools. Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; Canadian division in Toronto.
Sensory Resources, SI products. Las Vegas NV.
SI Checklist, Sensory Integration screening questionnaire. Arthur Becker-Weidman, Williamsville NY, 2006.
SI Disorders, The SI problems of Joshua, adopted from Thailand. Lisa Edelsward, 2002.
SI International, Training in SID treatment. Ayres Clinic treatment and research center. Workshops, courses, publications, therapists. Torrance CA.
Global Autism Collaboration,
Society for Auditory Intervention Techniques, Auditory integration training for children with learning problems and sound sensitivities. Link to Autism Research Institute. Mary Lewis, Salem OR.
Southpaw Enterprises, SI products.
SPD Network, For parents, teachers, therapists and doctors to learn about SPD. Many articles, links. Sensory Processing Disorder Network, Littleton CO.
Speak, Read, Succeed Interactive Checklist, Checklist of questions to assess your child's speech problems. Richmond BC Public Library.
Theraproducts, Products for occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, educators. Karen Conrad, O.T.
Tips for Teachers, Tips for children who are oversensitive to light touch and need movement to stay on task in the classroom. Kari Shanks Hall, SPD Network.
Vision Therapy and SI Specialists, Services in vision therapy and sensory integration. Stanley Appelbaum. Bethesda MD.
Weighted Vest, Weighted vest for SI therapy.

Articles and books

Ayres, Jean. Sensory Integration and the Child. Western Psychological Services, Los Angeles, 1979.

Cermak, S., and Daunhauer, L. (1997). Sensory processing in the post-institutionalized child. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51, 500-507.

Cermak, Sharon. Romanian Children Show Sensory Defensiveness. Effects of sensory deprivation on Romanian orphanage children.

Edger, Clay. Effects of Vision on Learning and School Performance

Gillet, Pam. Auditory Processes.

Kavner, Richard S. Your Child's Vision, Simon and Schuster.

Kranowitz, Carol Stock. The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Perigee, New York, 1998.

Scherer, Priscilla and Burton, Lisa. "The Little Girl Who Loved to Swing". Article in Adoptive Families, Jan/Feb 2001. On Sensory Integration Disorder.

Shapiro, Francine. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures. Guilford, New York, 1995.

Trott, Maryann C. et al. SenseAbilities: Understanding Sensory Integration. Therapy Skill Builders, San Antonio TX, 1993.

Yack, Ellen et al. Building Bridges. Three occupational therapists offer methods to assess a person's ability to receive sensory information, and tips for home and school.

Articles and books

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Updated, Mar. 18, 2014

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