What is Sensory Integration?

Anne Laure at conference with Audience

Sensory Integration

Sensory integration is the organisation of sensations within the body for use. Our senses help us to understand the physical conditions of our body and the environment surrounding us. The sensations are transferred into the brain every moment of every day. The senses don’t just come from our eyes and ears but from every other place in our body, that’s what makes us sensory beings

The sensory integration frame of reference (FoR) aims to identify the interaction between the sensory systems. Let’s ask ourselves, what are the sensory systems? 

There are 7 main senses: auditory, vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual, olfactory and gustatory which all have their own different roles. What is interoception? It may be the 8th sense. Read more here: https://www.annelaurejackson.com/blog?page=2

The sensory integrative abilities that are defined within sensory integration to understand your sensory thumprint is: modulation, discrimination, postural – ocular control, praxis, bilateral integration and sequencing

  • The ability to modulate, discriminate and integrate sensory information from the body and from the environment is key to grasping the main aspects of sensory integration. 
  • Self-regulation is imperative in order to maintain regulation and arousal levels to be able to focus on a task alongside.
  • Maintenance in postural control, ocular control, bilateral coordination and praxis which is the act of doing something such as organising behaviours for tasks and activities. 
  • Sensory integration input also helps individuals and groups to develop self-esteem and self-efficacy through carrying out daily occupations

Beneficial outcomes in sensory integrative abilities lead to successful engagement in daily occupations and activities. This could be through use of therapeutic equipment which aims to address the key senses of tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular and activating of these senses. The sensory equipment should be provided in a structured environment that is graded for the specific individual. 

Ayres Sensory Integration Process Elements 

Jean Ayres was the first Occupational Therapist to conceptualise the sensory integration theory which has later been put into a 10 step process looking at the key elements of sensory integration which are detailed as follows: 

  • The therapist ensures physical safety 
  • The therapist presents two of three sensory opportunities a) tactile b) proprioceptive c) vestibular  
  • The therapist supports sensory modulation for attaining / maintaining a regulated state including arousal / alertness / affect / and activity level 
  • The therapist challenges postural, ocular, oral and / or bilateral motor control. 
  • The therapist challenges the child’s praxis and organisation of behaviour ability including the ability to conceptualise and plan novel motor tasks, and organise his or her own behaviour in time and space. 
  • The therapist collaborates in activity choice with the child, activity choices and sequences are not determined solely by the therapist. 
  • The therapist tailors activities to present the just right challenge and suggests or supports an increase in complexity of challenge when the child responds successfully. 
  • The therapist ensures that activities are successful by facilitating challenges in which the child can be successful in making adaptive responses.  
  • The therapist supports the child’s intrinsic motivation to play and creates a setting that supports play as a way to fully engage the child in intervention. 
  • The therapist establishes a therapeutic alliance that promotes and establishes a connection with the child, working together toward one or more goals in a mutually enjoyable relationship. 



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