Sensory integration disorders

Sensory integration is a relatively new concept in psychology, but it has, however, been very popular in recent years. This has to do with the growing number of children diagnosed with sensory integration disorders.

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The very concept of "sensory integration" was coined by the American psychologist and therapist Jean Ayres. For over 30 years she has been working with children, observing their development and social behavior. On this basis, she developed a sensory integration therapy.

Ayres knowledge reached Polish psychologists and therapists in 1993. Since then, the interest in this field in our country has been growing steadily.

1. What is sensory integration?

The child is born helpless and dependent. Its development, however, is extremely fast. He learns something new almost every day, gets to know the world and its surroundings. He gains new experiences through the sensory systems: touch, sight, hearing, taste.

Jean Ayres found that a child acquires new skills in a specific order (the concept of sequencing). She divided them into four stages that are closely related and interact with each other:

  • Stage I (fetal life and neonatal period) - the development of integration of labyrinthine and proprioceptive stimuli (they enable, among others, eye movement, proper muscle tone, balance, a sense of confidence in relation to the force of gravity) and the integration of tactile stimuli.
  • Stage II (1st year of life) - learning about the body schema, praxia (ability to perform complex purposeful movements), coordination of the sides of the body.
  • Stage III (from 1 to 3 years of age) - speech development, development of manipulative skills (eye-hand coordination).
  • Stage IV (preschool and early school period) - development of inter-hemispheric communication, self-control, self-acceptance, the ability to understand and think abstractly.

Each of these steps must appear in a specific order. When the central nervous system is disturbed, it translates into emotional, social and family problems.

A child may behave incomprehensible to adults, cause educational problems, which, however, do not result from his malice, but precisely from sensory integration disorders.

Sensory integration disorders are diagnosed more and more often (123RF)

2. "Traffic jam in the brain"

Carol Kranowitz, the author of many publications in the field of sensory integration disorders, believes that it is possible to identify factors that predispose to SI disorders.

Belong to them:

  • genetic predispositions,
  • prenatal factors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy, multiple pregnancies, premature birth, low birth weight, post-birth stress (e.g. as a result of cesarean section).
  • perinatal factors, i.e. jaundice, long-term hospitalization.

According to Carol Kranowitz, the problem of sensory integration disorders affects from 10 to 15 percent. kids.

Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are a whole range of disorders. It covers three main categories:

  1. sensory modulation disorder,
  2. sensory discrimination disorder,
  3. motor disorders with a sensory basis.

They never occur simultaneously. Jean Ayres repeatedly emphasized in her works that in the case of SPD we cannot speak of brain damage, it is only a "traffic jam". Skillfully conducted therapy will help to relieve the blockage.

3. Symptoms of SI disorders

There are a lot of them and they depend on the SPD category. However, parents should be concerned about the behaviors, such as:

  • excessive mobility of the child (the child is often perceived as rude, disobedient),
  • passivity, low activity of the child, slowness,
  • reduced muscle tension and strength,
  • difficulty in acquiring new motor skills,
  • self-service problem - washing, dressing,
  • low motor coordination (considered clumsy),
  • confusing directions,
  • fear of climbing ladders, chair or couch,
  • reluctance to wash, cut nails and hair,
  • reluctance to cuddle, stroke,
  • reluctance to play with other children,
  • reluctance to go barefoot,
  • baby's tearfulness, shouting (a common symptom in babies).

Many of these behaviors are underestimated by parents. Adults believe that a child will outgrow it or require more discipline because it is rude.

Disturbances in the perception of sensory impressions from the body, however, may worsen and problems may increase. So when to go to a specialist?


Natalia Kołat, the author of the work "Sensory processing disorders in children - _diagnosis and conduct "_ prompts the parent to ask himself three questions:

  1. Is the existing problem bothering the child? (is it accepted? is it independent? can it play in a group?)
  2. Does the existing problem bother others? (does the child follow the teacher's instructions? How does he behave towards other children?)
  3. Should you listen to other experienced parents or teachers so that you seek help?

AI therapy will significantly improve the child's visual and auditory skills, concentration and attention span. It will also improve gross and fine motor skills, positively affect the child's self-esteem and emotional functioning.

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