Sensory Science Activities
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For the similarly-named personality trait distinct from the disorder, see Sensory processing sensitivity. Sensory integration was defined by occupational therapist Anna Jean Ayres in 1972 as “the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment”. 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. Sensory-based motor disorder shows motor output that is disorganized as a result of incorrect processing of sensory information affecting postural control challenges, resulting in postural disorder, or developmental coordination disorder. Sensory discrimination disorder involves the incorrect processing of sensory information. Incorrect processing of visual or auditory input, for example, may be seen in inattentiveness, disorganization, and poor school performance. Symptoms may vary according to the disorder’s type and subtype present.
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SPD can affect one sense or multiple senses. While many people can present one or two symptoms, sensory processing disorder has to have a clear functional impact on the person’s life. Dislike of textures such as those found in fabrics, foods, grooming products or other materials found in daily living, to which most people would not react. Serious discomfort, sickness or threat induced by normal sounds, lights, movements, smells, tastes, or even inner sensations such as heartbeat. Sucking or biting fingers, clothing, pencils, etc.
Delays in crawling, standing, walking or running. The exact cause of SPD is not known. However, it is known that the mid-brain and brain stem regions of the central nervous system are early centers in the processing pathway for multisensory integration, these brain regions are involved in processes including coordination, attention, arousal, and autonomic function. Current research in sensory processing is focused on finding the genetic and neurological causes of SPD. Differences in tactile and auditory over responsivity show moderate genetic influences, with tactile over responsivity demonstrating greater heritability. Bivariate genetic analysis suggested different genetic factors for individual differences in auditory and tactile SOR. People with sensory over-responsivity might have increased D2 receptor in the striatum, related to aversion to tactile stimuli and reduced habituation.
In animal models, prenatal stress significantly increased tactile avoidance. Different neural generators could be activated at an earlier stage of sensory information processing in people with SOR than in typically developing individuals. The automatic association of causally related sensory inputs that occurs at this early sensory-perceptual stage may not function properly in children with SOR. Recent research found an abnormal white matter microstructure in children with SPD, compared with typical children and those with other developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD.
Diagnosis is primarily arrived at by the use of standardized tests, standardized questionnaires, expert observational scales, and free play observation at an occupational therapy gym. Observation of functional activities might be carried at school and home as well. Some scales that are not exclusively used in SPD evaluations are used to measure visual perception, function, neurology and motor skills. SIT is “ineffective and that its theoretical underpinnings and assessment practices are unvalidated. Moreover, the authors warned that SIT techniques exist “outside the bounds of established evidence-based practice” and that SIT is “quite possible a misuse of limited resources.
The main form of sensory integration therapy is a type of occupational therapy that places a child in a room specifically designed to stimulate and challenge all of the senses. During the session, the therapist works closely with the child to provide a level of sensory stimulation that the child can cope with, and encourage movement within the room. Children with hypo-reactivity may be exposed to strong sensations such as stroking with a brush, vibrations or rubbing. Play may involve a range of materials to stimulate the senses such as play dough or finger painting. Children with hyper-reactivity may be exposed to peaceful activities including quiet music and gentle rocking in a softly lit room. Treats and rewards may be used to encourage children to tolerate activities they would normally avoid. While occupational therapists using a sensory integration frame of reference work on increasing a child’s ability to adequately process sensory input, other OTs may focus on environmental accommodations that parents and school staff can use to enhance the child’s function at home, school, and in the community.
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There is a growing evidence base that points to and supports the notion that adults also show signs of sensory processing difficulties. In the United Kingdom early research and improved clinical outcomes for clients assessed as having sensory processing difficulties is indicating that the therapy may be an appropriate treatment. It is estimated that up to 16. SOR behaviors in the tactile or auditory modalities. However, this figure might represent an underestimation of Sensory Over Responsivity prevalence, since this study did not include children with developmental disorders or those delivered preterm, who are more likely to present it. Incidence for the remaining subtypes is currently unknown.
Because comorbid conditions are common with sensory integration issues, a person may have other conditions as well. People who receive the diagnosis of sensory processing disorder may also have signs of anxiety problems, ADHD, food intolerances, behavioral disorders and other disorders. The abnormally high synchrony between the sensory cortices involved in perception and subcortical regions relaying information from the sensory organs to the cortex is pointed as having a central role in the hypersensitivity and other sensory symptoms that define autism spectrum disorder. Sensory modulation has been the main subtype studied. The Sensory Experiences Questionnaire has been developed to help identify the sensory processing patterns of children who may have autism.
It is speculated that SPD may be a misdiagnosis for persons with attention problems. There are concerns regarding the validity of the diagnosis. SPD is not included in the DSM-5 or ICD-10, the most widely used diagnostic sources in healthcare. SPD is in Stanley Greenspan’s Diagnostic Manual for Infancy and Early Childhood and as Regulation Disorders of Sensory Processing part of The Zero to Three’s Diagnostic Classification. Some state that sensory processing disorder is a distinct diagnosis, while others argue that differences in sensory responsiveness are features of other diagnoses and it is not a standalone diagnosis.
Researchers have described a treatable inherited sensory overstimulation disorder that meets diagnostic criteria for both attention deficit disorder and sensory integration dysfunction. Recent studies have helped to physiologically differentiate typically developing children from children with SPD, and from children with autism. In a recent study performed by Owen et al. In a follow-up study pertaining to differentiation of SPD from autism, Chang et al. SPD compared to a group of children with autism, and also in relation to a group of typically developing children. The results of this study showed significantly less white matter connectivity between the parietal and occipital lobes in the children with SPD and ASD compared to the typically developing children. According to Ayres’s writings, an individual with SPD would have a decreased ability to organize sensory information as it comes in through the senses.
Ayres’s theoretical framework for what she called Sensory integration was developed after six factor analytic studies of populations of children with learning disabilities, perceptual motor disabilities and normal developing children. Both visual perceptual and auditory language deficits were thought to possess a strong cognitive component and a weak relationship to underlying sensory processing deficits, so they are not considered central deficits in many models of sensory processing. In 1998, Mulligan performed a study on 10,000 sets of data, each representing an individual child. She performed confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses and found similar patterns of deficits with her data as Ayres did.
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Low registration: high threshold with passive response. Individuals who do not pick up on sensations and therefore partake in passive behavior. Sensation seeking: high threshold and active response. Those who actively seek out a rich sensory filled environment. Sensitivity to stimuli: low threshold with passive response. Individuals who become distracted and uncomfortable when exposed to sensation but do not actively limit or avoid exposure to the sensation. Sensation avoiding: low threshold and active response.
Individuals actively limit their exposure to sensations and are therefore high self regulators. In Miller’s nosology “sensory integration dysfunction” was renamed into “Sensory processing disorder” to facilitate coordinated research work with other fields such as neurology since “the use of the term sensory integration often applies to a neurophysiologic cellular process rather than a behavioral response to sensory input as connoted by Ayres. A wide variety of approaches have incorporated sensation in order to influence learning and behavior. The Alert Program for Self-Regulation is a complementary approach that encourages cognitive awareness of alertness often with the use of sensory strategies to support learning and behavior.
Other approaches primarily use passive sensory experiences or sensory stimulation based on specific protocols, such as the Wilbarger Approach and the Vestibular-Oculomotor Protocol. The organization has supported the need for further research to increase insurance coverage for related therapies. They have also made efforts to educate the public about sensory integration therapy. Trajectories of Sensory Over-Responsivity from Early to Middle Childhood: Birth and Temperament Risk Factors.
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The Relevance of Sensory Processing Disorder to Social Work Practice: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Mulick, Controversial therapies for autism and intellectual disabilities: Fad, fashion, and science in professional practice, pp. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Perspectives on sensory processing disorder: a call for translational research”. Sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorders”. Schaaf RC, Benevides T, Blanche EI, et al. Understanding the nature of sensory integration with diverse populations.
An overview of sensory processing disorder”. Trajectories of Sensory Over-Responsivity from Early to Middle Childhood: Birth and Temperament Risk Factors”. Longitudinal follow-up of autism spectrum features and sensory behaviors in Angelman syndrome by deletion class”. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
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Sensory Processing Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment”. The neural basis of multisensory integration in the midbrain: its organization and maturation”. Validating the diagnosis of sensory processing disorders using EEG technology”. A population-based twin study of parentally reported tactile and auditory defensiveness in young children”. Maturation of sensory gating performance in children with and without sensory processing disorders”. Schneider ML, Moore CF, Gajewski LL, et al.
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Abnormal white matter microstructure in children with sensory processing disorders”. Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders: Shared White Matter Disruption in Sensory Pathways but Divergent Connectivity”. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013. Developmental Risk Signals as a Screening Tool for Early Identification of Sensory Processing Disorders. Eeles AL, Spittle AJ, Anderson PJ, et al. Assessments of sensory processing in infants: a systematic review”.
The sensory profile: a discriminant analysis of children with and without disabilities”. Part One: Description of the Tool and Its Use in the Preschool Environment”. Reliability and construct validity of the Clinical Observations of Motor and Postural Skills”. Behavior rating inventory of executive function”.
Efficacy of sensory and motor interventions for children with autism”. Occupational therapy using a sensory integrative approach for children with developmental disabilities”. Ment Retard Dev Disabil Res Rev. Somatosensory stimulation interventions for children with autism: literature review and clinical considerations”. Raising a sensory smart child: the definitive handbook for helping your child with sensory integration issues.
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The Effectiveness of Sensory Integration Therapy to Improve Functional Behaviour in Adults with Learning Disabilities: Five Single-Case Experimental Designs”. Borderline personality disorder and sensory processing impairment”. Brown S, Shankar R, Smith K, et al. Sensory processing disorder in mental health”. Relationships Between Sensory Modulation and Social Supports and Health-Related Quality of Life”.
The relationship between sensory processing patterns and sleep quality in healthy adults”. Sensory processing problems in children with ADHD, a systematic review”. Sensory processing subtypes in autism: association with adaptive behavior”. Sensory processing in children with and without autism: a comparative study using the short sensory profile”. Kern JK, Trivedi MH, Grannemann BD, et al. Multisensory processing in children with autism: high-density electrical mapping of auditory-somatosensory integration”.
Anxiety disorders and sensory over-responsivity in children with autism spectrum disorders: is there a causal relationship? Talent in autism: hyper-systemizing, hyper-attention to detail and sensory hypersensitivity”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Sensory processing in autism: a review of neurophysiologic findings”. Increased Functional Connectivity Between Subcortical and Cortical Resting-State Networks in Autism Spectrum Disorder”.
A meta-analysis of sensory modulation symptoms in individuals with autism spectrum disorders”. Neuropsychologic functioning in children with autism: further evidence for disordered complex information-processing”. Sensory Experiences Questionnaire: discriminating sensory features in young children with autism, developmental delays, and typical development”. Little LM, Freuler AC, Houser MB, et al. Psychometric validation of the Sensory Experiences Questionnaire”. Sensory Over-Responsivity and ADHD: Differentiating Using Electrodermal Responses, Cortisol, and Anxiety”. Consider sensory processing disorders in the explosive child: case report and review”.
Impaired multisensory processing in schizophrenia: deficits in the visual enhancement of speech comprehension under noisy environmental conditions”. Auditory sensory dysfunction in schizophrenia: imprecision or distractibility? This is a super simple craft activity to demonstrate to preschoolers how rainbows form. All you need for this fun, messy activity is an empty box, some marbles or other small balls and paint. This is a fun summer twist on sensory play with Oobleck.
Sensory Regulation Activities aid in developing Sensory Processing Integration, which is critical for all areas of a child’s growth. It is a particularly critical area of focus for individuals with sensory processing disorder. Learning how to regulate their energy and feelings is an important aspect of any child’s growth and development. These squishy squashy balloons are awesome! The kids love them and they are very durable. There are endless ways that you can play with them. Playing with items that have different textures teach our senses to adapt to different feelings.
Crushing the eggshells is super fun and it promotes fine motor skills. Have the kids make a calm down kit for themselves and for teachers to use in their classroom. The idea is that when a child gets upset they take the kit and choose an item or two that will help them calm down and begin to develop emotional self-regulation. It is important for our kids to learn to choose the best way to self-soothe rather than us dictating what they should do. It requires the brain and hands to cross the midline.
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Balloon Pass: A Tactile Sensory Processing and Directionality Activity Here is a fun tactile sensory processing activity that works on directionality and tactile discrimination. In certain situations, these expectations are reasonable but what about the child who either has an overactive system or an under active system? For these children, sitting still may feel like an insurmountable task. While reading the deliciously sweet Don’t Turn the Page by Rachelle Burk and illustrated by Julie Downing I was brought back to the bedtime routine of my daughter. Make your own sweet smelling Bedtime Buddies and it will soon be your child’s favorite stuffed friend!
Over the years we have collected tools and strategies to help children take control of their anxiety. Different strategies work for different children and situations. Choose the strategies for soothing the anxious child that fit with your child’s personality and needs. This project is a sensory experience for the hands and the nose. Kids will love to smoosh, pound and roll the dough. The idea of this game is to have the children pass the balloons left or right depending on what they feel. A Jar Full of Feelings is a visual sensory regulation activity to help children recognize and respond appropriately to their feelings.
This activity will help them understand their feelings and self-regulate. These native seed bombs are awesome! Great for gift-giving and nature studies while also serving to exercise the hands. Objectives: Sensory Integration, Plant Life Lesson, Measurement, Gift-giving or Fund Raising. Doesn’t the fall just make you want to go out and play with all the beautiful fall leaves? It brings out memories, real or imagined, of running and joyfully jumping into a pile of leaves.
This art project gives you a reason to play with leaves. Trending Toys Perfect for Summer Fun and Learning! I’m so excited to write this post. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.
Phew, that’s a lot of info. Seriously, if you do one of these activities you’re doing great. You’re doing great anyway, I just mean that sometimes parents can look at blogs and pinterest and all that and feel really overwhelmed and bad about themselves. This is meant to help, not to put pressure on you! I love doing this stuff and I’ve made it a focal point of my life by choice. If you’re interested in doing more art with your kids, take baby steps.
What a joyful, colorful experience for toddlers to enjoy! My granddaughter, Ruby, has learned so much while having a wonderful time painting, molding, sprinkling, squishing, understanding new concepts, experimenting with colorful, new textures and ideas! Truly a toddler paradise to be allowed freedom of expression within safe boundaries. How lovely to hear from you and read your kind words.