Published: Jan. 25, 2012
Updated: Jan. 25, 2012
Sensory processing (sometimes called sensory integration or SI) is a term that refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.
Whether you are biting into a hamburger, riding a bicycle, reading a book, or putting on clothes, your successful completion of the activity requires processing sensation -- or sensory integration.
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals do not get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological "traffic jam" that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.
A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks, such as development of motor skills, learning, self-esteem, social interactions, activity level, and behavioral responses. How we interpret sensory input influences how we cope with day to day life.
The occupational therapist will provide families with sensory diets (home programs specific to the child and family’s needs), explore strategies to help the child respond and attend more appropriately at home, school, and within the community, and address a variety of SPD conditions such as: