The proper development of a child depends on many factors and may be disturbed by many of them. What a child experiences, how he perceives the external and internal world (his body), has a huge impact on them. Much depends on properly functioning senses – this is what the SI theory of sensory integration says. Proper child development and sensory integration.
What is sensory integration?
Sensory integration is a neurological process. The creator of the AI Theory is Dr. A. Jean Ayres, who was the first to emphasize the role played, by the senses in the development of a child and the activities of an adult. The processes taking place in the brain are not dependent on us. Our brain has the ability to collect sensory impressions, analyze them, process them and integrate them with previous experiences so that their further use is possible. Our brain becomes a kind of database, stimuli received by sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, vestibular system, i.e. the system responsible for gravity, and the kinesthetic sense called proprioception, deep feeling, reach it.
In every situation of everyday life, we are bombarded by countless stimuli. Sensory integration is a process that organizes sensory stimuli, coming from our body and the surrounding environment. In addition, AI allows our body to be used effectively to interact with our environment.
Integration between the senses is extremely complicated and necessary so that we can quickly and automatically interpret the situation and generate the appropriate adaptive response from our body to the incoming stimulus.
It is worth realizing that 80% of our nervous system is working on processing incoming sensory information. If the central nervous system works efficiently, the information flows to it without any disturbances, it collects all experiences and analyzes them accordingly, just as in the spiral a sequence of movements builds another developmental step based on previous experiences. Each of them is necessary to create the next development steps. Thanks to such experiences, the child knows that the hot water burns and will quickly withdraw his hand because his brain has classified the sensation as unpleasant, painful.
Development of the SI function
Sensory integration begins in the prenatal period, the first sense that arises is touch, initiated in the craniofacial area (around 5.5 weeks of age). It is constantly stimulated by the mother’s every movement, which is why it is so important that expectant mothers are active every day. The space in the womb decreases as the fetus grows, the shells become tighter, which increases proprioception and preparation for individual life. Just turning the fetus around, kicking, sucking the thumb in the amniotic fluid provides constant stimulation. Plenty of proprioceptive experiences and stimulation are provided by the natural delivery itself. The senses continue to develop after the baby is born into the world. In the beginning, they work very primitively, but over time, thanks to proper stimulation and the natural development process, they improve their skills.
A newborn baby learns to move his arms, legs, head, and neck. Babies are putting objects in their mouths more and more often, touching their bodies, other people, and objects hear sounds and turn their bodies towards them. His eyesight becomes sharper and he can focus on his hands and his parents’ movements. They learn to fall over, crawl, stay standing, counteracting gravity. He discovers that everything has a smell and a taste. He discovers that when he comes into physical contact with toys and people, his body parts work in tandem with each other. The development of each person is based on three guiding principles: organization, adaptive responses, and the internal need for competence. Sensory information forms the basis of all life activities of each of us.
Stages of IS development
A child’s development follows certain rules. During the first seven years of life, a young person acquires more and more skills and is able to cope with new situations. During this time, he learns to use his senses. Thanks to them, he gets to know himself, his body, and the surrounding world better and better. The end result of sensory-integrative development is the child’s school readiness in the area of self-control, attention, laterality, learning, and abstract thinking. In typical development, no time is needed to teach or train them. The only thing required for their development is time.
The main principle of development is the brain’s ability to organize sensory information and adaptive responses (information processing) in an increasingly complex way. Learning and behavior are observable by the outside world of the brain’s invisible activities. Thus, it is incorrect to say that learning only occurs at school. Learning is a kind of experiencing, collecting, and integrating experiences for their further use. Everything that was experienced in the fetal life and during the first 7 years of a child’s life forms the basis for further learning in school.
What is SI disorder
Dr. Ayres once compared AI to indigestion in the brain, in other words, the brain is not working efficiently. There is apparently no organic damage, but the “food” is not processed properly. The child has difficulty accumulating experiences, creating adaptive responses, and the ability to purposefully organize correct behavior. This disorder affects the structure of the brain related to the registration, modulation, discrimination, and integration of sensory information, i.e. how the child responds to external stimuli (there may be problems in the emotional and social sphere) and how the skills needed in everyday life are shaped (there may be disorders motor: difficulty fastening buttons, cycling, judging distances, poor balance).
Problems with recording information are directly related to an abnormally high or low threshold of sensory excitability. In behavior, this manifests itself as searching for an intense stimulus (hyperactivity), such as swinging in a chair, putting objects or a finger in the mouth, touching everything in the store. On the second continuum, there is lethargy, fatigue, e.g. babies sleep a lot, are quiet and calm, older children will also show fatigue, lack of motivation to work, withdrawing from activity, lack of cooperation, showing a rebellious attitude.
Malfunctioning of the vestibular system
Children with disorders of the vestibular system feel a threat to the sense of gravitational safety, they show a constant desire to cuddle, they often live with a feeling of great anxiety, school phobia, compulsions. Young mothers may notice their child’s reluctance to play in the playground, motion sickness. Malfunctioning of the vestibular system manifests itself in school children, e.g. lying on notebooks, holding a writing instrument incorrectly, breaking crayons. However, in the case of tactile hypersensitivity, the child does not like to touch toys, hold a pencil or paint with a brush. There are a number of sensory processing abnormalities that occur in students in the form of learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder, and motor coordination.
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We all know that there are basic senses of touch, hearing, sight, taste, and smell, thanks to which we receive information from the environment. However, there are slightly different senses that pick up the data sent from the inside of our body. These internal sensory systems are the proprioception, vestibular and interoceptive systems. They inform us about who we are and how we feel. Working together, the senses integrate and notify us about what is happening in our environment, what we should do at the moment.
Sense of touch
This sense appears first and it gives the child a sense of security. It also influences the first bond between the child and the parents. Thanks to it, we are able to recognize cold, heat, and pain. When getting dressed in the morning, we do not remember the complexity of the dressing process, we are not disturbed by tags, seams. This sense influences our sense, of comfort.
Sense of hearing
The processing of auditory information begins in the womb and progresses with our maturation as we learn to listen attentively. We learn to ignore some sounds, e.g. from a crowded street. This sense includes both passive perceptions of auditory information, and active listening. It is extremely important to differentiate between sounds and decide, which ones to ignore and which to pay attention to. The student’s task at school is to ignore the background noise and focus on the teacher’s voice.
The sense of sight
The visual system is quite complicated and it is not just about our eyeballs seeing well. The eyes receive images from the outside world, and then transmit this information to the brain to be processed and assessed there, e.g. whether the visual stimulus is important, whether it needs to be ignored, or if you need to react somehow (as we see the car, stop before crossing across the street). The brain and eyes work together to understand the principle of perspective (the person seen from a distance is the same person up close, the thrown ball ends up in the hands because we follow its flight path, we can remember colors, shapes, the sequence of written letters and finally reading).
The sense of taste and smell
The taste and smell sensations allow us to smell the blue cheese, rotten fish, harmful and dangerous gases, with closed eyes. We will detect the salty taste, the coldness of the food, and its smoothness. The development of these senses begins in the womb, and only a few days after being born, the newborn recognizes the smell of the mother. From the beginning, the child marks the smells as positive or negative. At his school age, he often has a strong understanding of smells and tastes.
This sense provides the internal awareness of the body, thanks to which we keep track of the movements of every part of our body, e.g. if we close our eyes and move our hand over the head, the brain knows where it is at every moment, young people use the computer keyboard without looking on her. This sense informs a person of the alignment of body parts without having to see them.
When we sit down, we activate certain muscles, joints, receptors in ligaments, and connective tissue. But when we get up and start moving, other muscles will stretch and others will contract. And so on each time, our body is active. It can compare to GPS, which is a specific map of the location of your body. In children with abnormalities, we observe stumbling, bumping against furniture, spilling and spilling. The conclusion is obvious, the more a child moves, interacts with people. Toys and tools, the better he or she is at using force in the right amount.
The vestibular sense allows us to achieve a state of balance between the surrounding world and our body. When we jump, skip, swing on a swing, roll, hang upside down on a roller coaster. Our vestibular receptors make counteracting the force of gravity and moving around easy and fun. Working in conjunction with the visual and proprioceptive systems. The vestibular system helps us maintain balance, maintain proper muscle tone. Move against the force of gravity, and still maintain our field of vision.
It is an internal sense of the body that senses important responses that regulate. Such bodily functions as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, thirst, and pressure in the bladder. It gives messages that can have a strong impact on us. If we have a fever, we must take action to feel better.
The therapeutic process is based on the assessment of the tasks performed. And the determination of the cause of the problems. The therapy is to enable the provision of sensory, vestibular. And proprioceptive impressions by adapting activities and forms of play in a targeted manner. This is to maximize the success of the play. Take care of the child’s physical safety and organize a space based on engaging all the senses. Sensory integration is a specialized occupational therapy.