What is Sensory Integration Therapy?

Sensory experiences include














body awareness


the pull of gravity

Sensory experiences include touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, smell, taste and the pull of gravity. The process of the brain organising and interpreting this information is called Sensory Integration. Sensory Integration (SI) provides a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour.


For most Children, Sensory Integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of this process, as is the ability to adapt to incoming sensations. But, for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When this process is disordered, a number of problems in learning, development and behaviour may become evident.


Not all children with learning, developmental or behavioural problems have underlying sensory integration difficulties. There are certain indicators, however, that can signal a parent that such difficulties may be present. These include:

Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights, smells, tastes and sounds.

This may be manifested in behaviours such as irritability or withdrawal when touched, avoidance of certain textures of clothes or food, distractibility, fearful reactions to such ordinary movement activities (swinging, spinning).

Under-reactive to sensory stimulation

Contrasted to the above, an under – responsive child may seek out sensory experiences such as whirling or crashing into people and objects. He or she may seem oblivious to pain or to body position. Some children fluctuate between extremes of over- and under – responsiveness.

Activity level that is unusually high or low

The child may be constantly on the move or may be slow to warm –up and fatigue easily. Again some children may fluctuate between extremes.

Coordination problems

This can be seen in gross and fine motor activities. Some children may have unusually poor balance, while others have great difficulty learning to do a new task that requires motor coordination.

Delays in speech, language, motor skills, or academic achievement

These may be evident in a pre-schooler along with other signs of poor sensory integration. In a school-aged child, there may be problems in some academic areas despite normal intelligence.

Poor organisation of behaviour

This child may be impulsive or distractible and show a lack of planning in approach to tasks. Some children have difficulty adjusting to new situations. Others may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal when they encounter failure.

Poor self-concept

Often a child with Sensory processing difficulties ‘does not quite feel right.’ A bright child may know that some tasks are more difficult than others but may not know why. This child can often present as bored, lazy or unmotivated. Some children develop strategies to avoid those tasks that are hard or embarrassing. When this happens, the child may be considered troublesome or stubborn. When a problem is difficult to understand, parents and children may blame themselves. Family tension, poor self-concept and a general feeling of hopelessness may prevail.

An important thing to remember when dealing with children is,

“…look at what the behaviour is trying to tell you, rather than looking at the behaviour as being negative or ‘bad’…”

For some, this can make a profound difference and your child will be thankful and better off for