Making Sense of Sensory Integration

Roller coaster rides are the extreme example of the varying kinds of sensory needs seen typically. What kind are you?

  1. Love the roller coaster
  2. Hate it- will have nothing to do with it, will definitely get sick once I am off of the roller coaster
  3. Am okay with the ride if pushed to go on it

Well if you chose (a) as your answer you are sensory seeking- the thrill of the ride pumps up your brain and you feel alert after the ride. If you chose (b) you are sensory avoiding- just the sight of the roller coaster in the amusement park makes you nauseous.

If you chose (c) you have a typical threshold and if the ride is fun, leaves you feeling good but you can also do without it. The examples above are targeted towards the vestibular input which is received by the brain with the changing of the position of the head and body in relation to gravity.

Let’s talk about some day to day things that we do to fill those sensory needs. Chewing at the end of the pen to concentrate, tapping/shaking your foot to keep yourself awake, needing a stress ball in your hand to focus. All of us have different sensory needs that we learn to feed through appropriate activities. As we are all unique individuals, our sensory needs are unique too.

When children have sensory needs that they are not able to fulfill, the needs are manifested as behavioral responses. These are the children who the parents would describe as completely fearless; love to touch people/objects almost to the point of irritation and have difficulty staying still. On the other end of the spectrum we might have children who have a tantrum every time they need to be bathed or clothed and/or have difficulty when they are in close proximity to other children. Sensory integration trained professionals can help the children and parents identify these sensory needs and ways to fulfill them to support play and learning.

If this topic is of interest to you, please look at the information available at these links:

Vibha Pathak, OTD, OTR/L


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