What is Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration?
We all learn, explore and understand the world through our senses using the process of Sensory Integration. This is how we transform sensory information from within our own bodies and the external environment into messages we can act on.
All the senses (touch, sight, sound, movement, body awareness, taste, and smell) work together to give us a reliable picture of the world and our place in it and thus facilitate learning through exploration. When our senses are working adequately and our sensory system is integrated, we are able to attend to important information like listening and attending to the teacher in a classroom, writing, climbing stairs, jumping and running, and chewing and swallowing our food etc. An integrated sensory system helps us develop holistically and achieve age appropriate developmental milestones.
When this process does not take place effectively, and sensory signals are either not detected or not organized into appropriate responses, it results in sensory integration difficulties. Children who have sensory difficulties may –
Be picky eaters,
Get impacted by noises around them;
Have difficulty with certain textures of clothes
Have difficulty regulating their emotions, etc.
When these difficulties hinder the day-to- day life, it may be indicative of Sensory Processing Dysfunction, or other developmental disorders. Such children may benefit from occupational therapy and sensory integration work, where they are assessed and then intervention is provided in a safe environment, through creative, yet structured ways.
Where and how is Occupational Therapy done?
Occupational Therapy is provided to children in the form of planned play activities, exploration of a planned environment and the focus is on learning through doing. Such environments are created in Occupational Therapy gyms.
A home plan, which can be implemented in natural environments like a playground, park, school or at home, can also be part of the plan to add consistency and generalization of the skill for the child.
Occupational therapy focuses on building body awareness, self-regulation, motor planning, gross motor and fine motor skills, school readiness, and socialisation & play.It also helps children to be as independent as possible and helps to create confidence and internal motivation for the same.
How Can an Occupational Therapy Practitioner Help?
- Identify adaptive sensory and motor planning strategies to facilitate full participation in daily routines and social interaction;
- Teach and model activities to support sensory, motor planning, and behavioral needs;
- Provide intervention using sensory processing approaches, to remediate underlying deficits and prepare the individual to participate as fully as possible in activities that are meaningful or necessary;
- Help raise the level of an individual or family’s awareness of the impact of sensory factors on every day activities and real life situations;
- Identify and modify sensory and environmental barriers that limit participation in every day activity;
- Collaborate with families, physical therapists, psychologists, and teachers.