Sensory Integration refers to our ability to notice a sensory event, modulate that information to a usable level, integrate that information with our other senses and respond in a manner that is adaptive and appropriate to the specific situation. When this process works well, the world makes sense and the child’s skills develop appropriately. Difficulty with this process, called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) creates confusion, stress and makes performing everyday tasks challenging. This can be result in:
Behavior challenges – difficulty with transitions, uncooperative, defiant, a need to control the situation or other people, anxiety, depression, difficulty with sleep, hyperactivity, poor attention.
Motor Challenges – appearing clumsy, immature play, unwilling or unable to draw or write, difficulty using utensils or performing self-help skills, reluctance to participate in movement games or sports, decreased coordination, strength and endurance and delayed or inefficient visual motor or perception skills.
We all enter the world with a set of automatic, instinctual movement patterns that ensure our survival and assist in development and growth. These hardwired patterns provide the neurological framework for the organization of our sensory motor development. Without them we could not move through the birth canal, learn to roll, crawl or walk. Many reflexes are active throughout our lives and continue to serve for protection. They are activated in response to a specific sensory event i.e. blinking your eye or reaching your hands down to catch yourself when you fall.
Reflexes help to organize a child’s actions during the first stages of development but are not static. They should change and become more complex with age supporting mature, skilled movement patterns and behavior. Persistent immature reflex activity will prevent motor development and cause Neuromotor delays. A reflex that is not mature will interfere with the attainment of more advanced motor control and cognitive functions. The result will be the person who must use cortical drive to perform movements that should have become automatic such as handwriting, tracking words across the page, catching a ball or sitting still in the classroom. In these cases there may not be enough“Brain power” to both think and move.
A disruption in reflex integration can contribute to developmental delays related to disorders like ADHD, sensory processing disorder, autism, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory and visual processing disorders. It can affect balance, coordination and influence social, emotional and cognitive learning.