Sensory Integration/Sensory Processing

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What is Sensory Integration/Sensory Processing?

Sensory Integration & ADHD

Sensory Integration Book

Sensory Processing Evaluation

What is Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing?

Sensory integration has become a common word to describe what is actually three things:

Sensory integration is a term developed by Dr. A Jean Ayers in the 1950's. Since that time many scientists and professionals have added information to her basic theory and the term sensory processing is often used today in addition.

Sensory integration is a normal process that develops in all people. It is the ability to take in sensory information from our environment and our own bodies, organize that information in the nervous system, and use that information to interact in and learn from our environment.

Sensory integration dysfunction is the disorder that occurs when that normal process of sensory integration is inefficient. Many people with sensory integration dysfunction have difficulties in learning and behavior. Sensory integration dysfunction (DSI) can manifest in several different ways.

Sensory integration treatment is a treatment approach designed to use enhanced sensory intake to facilitate the normal process of sensory integration. Most therapists who are trained in providing sensory integration are occupational therapists but some are physical therapists and speech therapists. Sensory integration treatment is part of a therapist’s skills and there are no "sensory integration therapists" that are not previously trained and licensed in their respective disciplines.

There are many assessments available to evaluate sensory processing. Your occupational therapist will know which evaluations are most appropriate to your child's needs.

Dr. A. Jean Ayres, OT, developed the theory and treatment for children with sensory integration dysfunction in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Many occupational therapists today have added to her information through research and treatment techniques and many more are trained to provide treatment.

Island Therapies provides courses for parents, teachers, and therapists periodically. There are many other websites to find by entering sensory integration into your search engine.

There are several books about sensory integration that are helpful as well:

  • The Out of Sync Child & The Out of Sync Child Has Fun by Carol Stock Kranowitz, MA

  • Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight by Sharon Heller, Ph.D

  • Sensory Integration and the Child by A. Jean Ayres

  • Including SI for Parents by Jeanne S. Ganz, which is available at

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Sensory Integration & ADHD

Can my child have ADHD/ADD and SI issues at the same time?
Yes. Many children with ADD or ADHD have difficulty modulating sensory information so that they may need more sensory input than is typical or they may be very sensitive to sensory input. They may also have poor praxis or poor motor planning that interferes with the ability to learn new motor tasks. These problems can influence attention but can occur in conjunction with ADD/ADHD.

How would SI problems affect my child who has ADHD?
Sensory integration dysfunction presents in several ways that influence attention.

First, sensory defensiveness is neurological tendency to react aversively to sensations that are typically not considered noxious. Individuals with sensory defensiveness tend to be distracted, irritated, or even hurt by the sensations of touch, light, sound, or even taste and smell. This makes it hard for them to focus, attend, and feel comfortable in the environment.

Other individuals may need more sensory input than is considered typical to keep their attention and focus. They may need to move or fidget or touch objects more than average.

Lastly, individuals who have motor planning challenges have to spend a great deal of "thinking" or cognitive energy to do a motor task. It is hard to maintain such a high level of concentration over "simple" motor tasks, and thus distractibility, fatigue, and poor persistence to task becomes apparent. Motor coordination and balance issues are also frequently seen in children with SI problems.

What can I do to help my child?
You can get an evaluation of sensory integration by a qualified therapist. They will be able to give you strategies to help, based on your individual child's needs. You can also become more educated about sensory integration by reading books, visiting websites, and talking to others.

How can I help my child in school?
There are many sensory strategies to use in school. The child himself can do some of these strategies, and others need the cooperation of the teacher or school staff. Some strategies may be done at home with parents before and after school. Strategies can be as simple as wearing specific clothing items or using a certain type of pencil or as complicated as putting activities into his classroom day. A program of specifically selected activities for home and school is usually advisable and can be provided by your child's therapist.

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Sensory Integration Book

Including SI for Parents: Strategies at Home and School by Jeanne S. Ganz, OTR/L, BCP

This book was written to present strategies for parents that will help their children who have sensory integration dysfunction face everyday challenges. It provides ideas to handle such events as tolerating haircuts, baths, dentist visits, homework, handwriting, and parties. It also provides an overview of sensory integration, sensory-motor integration activity ideas, and a framework for analyzing each individual setting and child.

This book is now available on

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Sensory Processing Evaluation

A sensory integration evaluation assesses the sensory systems that impact on child’s daily function and behavior, and ability to learn in the classroom and multiple environments. These sensory systems are the vestibular system, the tactile system, the proprioceptive system, the interoceptive system, the visual system, the auditory system, and when appropriate the olfactory and gustatory systems.

The evaluation also includes an assessment of grasp patterns, fine motor skills, handwriting, bilateral integration, motor planning, balance, coordination, eye hand coordination, visual perception, and attention. Extensive tests of visual spatial perception are included when necessary.

The evaluation includes a parent interview and review of any reports or IEPs provided by the parent.

The evaluation includes a full written report, usually totaling 6-10 pages.

Home programs/Sensory Diets can be developed following evaluation. A Sensory Diet is often a part of a child’s treatment. It consists of selected activities that help to provide the sensory input that a child needs to help them process sensory information efficiently. There is a separate fee for a written home program.

To schedule an appointment for your child, call the office and our staff will take your information and schedule it for you. Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not cover a sensory integration/sensory processing evaluation.

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