The process of how we integrate sensation was explored and then described as a theory called Sensory Integration by Jean A Ayres, an Occupational Therapist, from America. She started her work in the 1950’s while exploring how to help brain-injured patients rehabilitate after a stroke. She said a person takes in sensory input from inside their body and from the world around them and uses it to understand the world. Sensory Integration helps us to know what just happened, what we are doing right now, and what we might need to do next.
To do this sensory information must be sent information along the nerves and into the brain. Here sensory input is collected, filtered and organised – a process called sensory integration – so that the information can be used.
Sensory Integration makes it possible for people to successfully carry out all the activities that make up their daily lives. When the senses cannot be well integrated or don’t work as they should, life becomes hard, and some things are impossible to do.
When sensory integration doesn’t work well, development can’t happen as it should, making managing our feelings, moving about, learning and getting along with others can be tricky. It can stop a child learning the skills they need for everyday life – being organised, looking after themselves, joining in with others, focussing and listening, sitting still. When we can take in and integrate sensory input, learning and participation in everyday life become possible.
Sensory difficulties interfere with being able to cope with feelings, get along with others, move about and do things like work, play, learning and being able to do self-care. In children, sensory processing difficulties can delay and hamper normal development and participation in home and school activities.
written by Kathryn Smith in 2013