What is Sensory Integration?
We experience the world through our senses. Sensory processing or sensory integration (SI) refers to the manner in which the nervous system receives information through the senses and organizes and interprets them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) exists when the body is unable to analyze, organize and or interpret sensory information. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. An individual with SPD finds it challenging to act upon information received through the sense. This causes challenges to in performing daily tasks.
Fine motor skills refers to the movement of the small muscles of the hands, wrists, fingers. Fine motor coordination involves the coordination and controlled movements of the hands. Movement that is required to to perform tasks such as dressing, self-care, cutting, pasting, coloring and writing. Children experiencing difficulty with these types of tasks can increase skill levels with individualized treatment.
A child’s hand is a powerful learning tool, but hand muscles and core postural muscles have to be well developed and coordinated before they can use classroom tools effectively. So, want to improve your child’s handwriting and ability to attend in class? Encourage play and lots of it! Nature is a great teacher so go out and play, explore, discover through the hands and all the senses. Other ideas for improving fine motor skills: Pull or Push toys (e.g. Pop beads), toys that require moving, placing or attaching little pieces such as legos, tinker toys, small blocks, lincoln blocks, knead dough or clay. Hide objects in clay and have them find them, picking up small objects with small tweezers, do finger games, pop bubble wrap, lace card, string beads, pasta, buttons etc into necklace (have fun with it), cotton ball race – squeeze a kitchen baster to move the cotton ball, squirt water bottles outdoors. Be creative!
Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body that enable such functions as walking, kicking, sitting upright, lifting, and throwing a ball. The coordination of our body’s major muscle groups requires motor planning, balance, strength, endurance and sensory discrimination. Gross and fine motor skills require postural control. An child with poor gross motor development, may have difficulty with activities such as sitting up in an alert position and sitting erect to watch classroom activity or engaging in fine motor activities.
Visual motor integration is the ability to control hand movement guided by vision. An individual has to be able to process visual information to produce a motor output. Visual perception is the ability to recognize, recall, discriminate and make sense of what we see. Difficulty with visual motor integration can affect many areas of function including one’s ability to color, draw, solve mazes, write, catch ball, tie shoes, use scissors to name a few.
Movement is the foundation from which all other skills develop. Through movement a child develops core strength and mastery of the environment. From which comes coordination, eye-hand coordination, motor planning, hand development, and fine motor skills. With this in place attention, language, daily living activities, and academic learning can take place.
Activities of daily living refers to self care activities or “thing we normally do” such as dressing, brushing teeth, combing hair, bathing, feeding ourselves etc.