Sensory Integration

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with processing information from the five senses (vision, auditory, touch, olfaction, and taste), the sense of movement (vestibular system), and/or the positional sense (proprioception). For those with SPD, sensory information is perceived and processed by the brain in an unusual way that may cause distress or confusion. SPD can be linked to conditions, including autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, Developmental Dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and speech delays, among many others. It is considered a 'soft sign' of neurological dysfunction that does not require treatment. Unfortunately, diagnosis is increasing by developmental pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, and child psychologists. Regulatory-Sensory Processing Disorder is an accepted diagnosis in Stanley Greenspan's Diagnostic Manual for Infancy and Early Childhood and the Zero to Three's Diagnostic Classification.

Sensory Processing Dysfunction

There are now three types of Sensory Processing Dysfunction, as classified by Stanley I. Greenspan as supported by the research of Lucy J. Miller, Ph.D., OTR. Sensory Processing Dysfunction is being used as a global umbrella term that includes all forms of this disorder, including three primary diagnostic groups:

  • Type I - Sensory Modulation Disorder (SMD). Over, or under responding to sensory stimuli or seeking sensory stimulation. This group may include a fearful and/or anxious pattern, negative and/or stubborn behaviors, self-absorbed behaviors that are difficult to engage or creative or actively seeking sensation.
  • Type II - Sensory Based Motor Disorder (SBMD). Shows motor output that is disorganized as a result of incorrect processing of sensory information.
  • Type III - Sensory Discrimination Disorder (SDD). Sensory discrimination or postural control challenges and/or dyspraxia seen in inattentiveness, disorganization, poor school performance.

Sensory modulation

Sensory modulation refers to a complex central nervous system process by which neural messages that convey information about the intensity, frequency, duration, complexity, and novelty of sensory stimuli are adjusted. Behaviorally, this is manifested in the tendency to generate responses that are appropriately graded in relation to incoming sensations, neither underreacting nor overreacting to them.

Sensory Modulation Problems
  • Sensory registration problems - This refers to the process by which the central nervous system attends to stimuli. This usually involves an orienting response. Sensory registration problems are characterized by failure to notice stimuli that ordinarily are salient to most people.
  • Sensory defensiveness - A condition characterized by over-responsivity in one or more systems.
  • Gravitational insecurity - A sensory modulation condition in which there is a tendency to react negatively and fearfully to movement experiences, particularly those involving a change in head position and movement backward or upward through space. (Case-Smith, (2005)
Hyposensitivities and hypersensitivities
  • Sensory integration disorders vary between individuals in their characteristics and intensity. Some people are so mildly afflicted, the disorder is barely noticeable, while others are so impaired they have trouble with daily functioning. Children can be born hypersensitive or hyposensitive to varying degrees and may have trouble in one sensory modality, a few, or all of them.
  • Hypersensitivity is also known as sensory defensiveness. Examples of hypersensitivity include feeling pain from clothing rubbing against skin, an inability to tolerate normal lighting in a room, a dislike of being touched (especially light touch) and discomfort when one looks directly into the eyes of another person.
  • Hyposensitivity is characterized by an unusually high tolerance for environmental stimuli. A child with hyposensitivity might appear restless and seek sensory stimulation. In treating sensory dysfunctions, a "just right" challenge is used: giving the child just the right amount of challenge to motivate him and stimulate changes in the way the system processes sensory information but not so much as to make him shut down or go into sensory overload.
  • This information is adapted from research and publications by: Lucy, J. Miller, Ph.D., OTR, Marie Anzalone, Sc.D., OTR, Sharon A. Cermak, Ed.D., OTR/L, Shelly J. ,Lane, Ph.D, OTR, Beth Osten, M.S,m OTR/L, Serena Wieder, Ph.D., Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D..
    Sensory integration dysfunction. Wikipedia. 8/26/09