Now that we have some background and understanding of Sensory Integration, we explore treatment options in this week’s post.
Sensory Integration Treatment
Occupational therapists trained in Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI®) use purposeful activities, specialized equipment and sound clinical reasoning to create opportunities for enhanced sensory integration in therapy. Therapeutic activities are designed to provide the child with opportunities to master challenges during participation in activities and demands presented by the environment. In doing so, the therapist aims to effect change in the naturally malleable nervous system of the young child towards more effective sensory processing. The younger the child, the more plastic the brain i.e. it has the ability to form new neural pathways and reroute information where necessary.
Once the child is processing and organising sensory information more effectively, he/she will find it easier to interact positively with his/her peers, play creatively and achieve success in all of his/her occupational performance areas at home and at school.
ASI® intervention can only be provided by therapists with post-graduate training in ASI® and is characterised by certain unique features, namely (Schaaf & Mailloux 2015):
- Therapy will always take place within the context of play.
- The therapist will establish a therapeutic alliance with the child and collaborate with the child in activity choices.
- The therapist will create challenges that are just-right for the child, and always ensure success.
- The therapist will make use of specialised equipment and always ensure a safe environment within which the child can engage.
- Activities will be rich in sensory inputs, with a particular emphasis on tactile (touch), vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (body position) processing.
- Depending on the child’s unique sensory integrative difficulties or dysfunctions, activities will challenge modulation of sensory input, the ability to discriminate the spatial and temporal characteristics of sensory input, postural and ocular control, integrating the two sides of the body, planning and coordination of new motor actions (praxis) and organisation of behaviour.
- Therapy will always include collaboration with parents/caregivers, educators and other multi-disciplinary team members.
Sensory integration and the realities of the South African context
A reality in SA is that about two thirds of the population will not be able to afford sensory integration services, a service that will make a difference to foundational functional academic skills such as, amongst others, reading and writing. SAISI is involved in or supporting various actions and endeavours to address these inequalities.
Financial support is provided to research within this field through research funding. SAISI also supports the development of “Back to Urth” playgrounds that are designed to provide especially tactile (touch), vestibular(movement) and proprioceptive (body position) sensory experiences that support sensory integration and thus function and allow children from marginalised communities access to play equipment which will provide them with the sensory rich experiences which support development (Van Jaarsveld A, 2015). Main sections of the playgrounds are constructed with a low-cost, eco-friendly building methods which makes it a sustainable solution for communities lacking in resources and infrastructure.
[This piece was initially written for the SAISI promotional pamphlet and adapted by Karen Powell]
Schaaf, R.C. & Mailloux, Z. 2015. Implementing Ayres Sensory Integration®. 2015. AOTA Press: Bethesda.
Van Jaarsveld, A. 2015. The realities of SI assessment and intervention in 3rd world countries. Presentation at European Sensory Integration Congress, Birmingham, UK.
SAISI Contact Details:
P.O.Box 14510 Hatfield Pretoria South Africa 0028
Tel: 012 3625457