Sensory integration therapy is a process in which our brain recognizes and responds to new sensory stimuli. Our receptors take in sensory input, which is transmitted through the nervous system to the brain and processed and used to create a response. The first stage in this process is called sensory registration, in which our brain becomes aware of new sensory stimuli.
There are many ways to develop sensory integration; one way is to create the right challenges for each child. The right challenge will challenge a child, but not too much or too little. This is known as the ‘just-right challenge’ and can be achieved through trial and error. The therapist will work with a child to determine their ‘just-right challenge’.
Occupational therapists work with the child where they are and extend the challenge to meet their stepping-stones. They will modify the environment, activities, and goals to create a sense of success for the child, encouraging them to continue working on the challenge.
Deep pressure is a tactile sensory input that has important implications for our autonomic nervous system. This system controls our breathing, heart rate, and other physiological functions. It also helps regulate our emotions. The two major divisions of the autonomic nervous system are the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The former is known as the fight or flight response, while the latter is responsible for regulating our feelings of calm.
Tactile defensiveness refers to a pattern of negative emotional responses and behaviors induced by certain types of tactile stimuli. It’s important to note that these feelings are out of proportion to the pain or discomfort the person experiences. Similarly, sensory integration is a neurological process that helps the body organize and process sensations from the environment. Children may intentionally avoid certain objects and situations when this process is disrupted.
Tactile discrimination problems:
Tactile discrimination problems are often associated with difficulty in processing tactile information. These problems are often caused by damage to the somatosensory cortex. Damage to this area can cause several symptoms, including impaired directed voluntary movement and impaired tactile discrimination. In one example, a patient with distal forelimb amputation shows a profound loss in tactile discrimination. Other damage to the somatosensory cortex includes ablation of different functional subdivisions. These results have different effects on sensory integration, as removing an area 3b produces a loss in tactile discrimination.