July 28, 2017

What are Sensory Integration Issues?

streaks of lightImagine you’re invited to someone’s house for a party. You’re excited about going, but when you arrive, it turns out to be far from what you expected. The lights are too bright, people are talking too loudly, it smells like a perfume store combined with a restaurant and a hint of chemicals, the food tastes odd, and if the tag in your shirt rubs the back of your neck one more time you may lose your mind. Funny thing is, everyone around you is happy, enjoying themselves, complimenting the host on the snacks. Have you dropped into an episode of The Twilight Zone?

No, you’ve just entered the world of sensory integration issues. When a person has sensory integration issues, everyday occurrences can feel like a nightmare. Conversations are a jumbled mass of noise, shopping causes anxiety, the cool breeze feels like an Arctic blast…and the person with the sensory issues wonders why they suffer when others have no problem.

So, what does the term “sensory integration issues” mean? Simply put, it means the brain doesn’t process sensory input in a normal manner. It can cause under-sensitivity to stimuli, such as not feeling pain. It can cause extreme sensitivity to stimuli, such as finding a light touch painful. It can cause a person to taste something odd, such as coconut tasting like a brush fire smells. It can also prevent a person from being able to filter out the background noise and focus on what someone is saying.1

Sensory integration therapy can be helpful to some people with extreme or numerous sensory issues. Performed by a specially trained therapist, sensory integration therapy is designed to help a person with sensory issues learn to understand the input that they have trouble processing. Some treatments may include what looks like standard childhood play: rolling, running, jumping, etc. Others may involve the person with sensory integration issues playing with a vibrating object or being exposed to different textures.2 Sensory integration therapy is personalized to meet each individual’s unique needs.

The good news is that sensory integration issues can be overcome, at least to a certain extent, and a person with sensory integration issues can lead a normal life. The person may always be more (or less) sensitive to stimuli than a person who has never had sensory integration issues, but learning to cope with the issues and working to overcome them can provide tremendous relief.

More information on sensory integration can be found at http://school.familyeducation.com/sensory-integration/parenting/36660.html

More information on sensory integration therapy can be found at http://autism.about.com/od/treatmentoptions/a/allaboutsi.htm

Footnotes:

1 Autism Spectrum Disorders Fact Sheet: Sensory Integration Disorder http://www.autism-help.org/education-sensory-integration-disorder.htm

2 Sensory Processing Disorder: Sensory Integration Activities http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-integration-activities.html

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