What is it?
Most of us unconsciously learn to combine our senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, body in space) in order to make sense of our environment. Children with autism have trouble learning to do this. Sensory integration therapy is a type of occupational therapy (OT) 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 encourage movement within the room.
Sensory integration therapy is driven by four key principles (1):
- the child must be able to successfully meet the challenges that are presented through playful activities (Just Right Challenge);
- the child adapts her behavior with new and useful strategies in response to the challenges presented (Adaptive Response);
- the child will want to participate because the activities are fun (Active Engagement); and
- the child's preferences are used to initiate therapeutic experiences within the session (Child Directed).
Sensory integration therapy is based on the assumption that the child is either overstimulated or understimulated by the environment (2). Therefore, the aim of sensory integration therapy is to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information so that the child will function better in his daily activities (2).
Recently another sensory-related therapy has been reported called Sensory Stories (3). Sensory Stories are similar to social stories (see Social Stories Therapy Fact Sheet ) in that they use individualized stories about sensory situations that an individual child may encounter, and then provides instructions on appropriate behaviors for the child to use in response (3).