Sensory Integration

The ability to perceive, attend, and respond to sensory information is called sensory integration; put simply, it is the organization of sensation for use. Effective intake and interpretation of sensory information requires the ability to discriminate (identify differences in sensory stimuli), modulate (filter out relevant information from irrelevant information), and react appropriately to sensory information. Proper processing of the senses is necessary to develop concentration, organization, motor control, language, problem solving, and other high-level learning skills.

The central nervous system receives and processes information from the seven primary sensory systems: vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (position), tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and oral/gustatory. These systems are the basis of sensory and motor development in a child. If there is any misinformation sent, or if the brain misinterprets the information, the development of higher-level functions is affected. When sensory systems are functioning in an imbalanced way, a child's world can seem overwhelming, resulting in a variety of difficulties within his/her environments.

Signs/Symptoms of Sensory Integration Disorders

Sensory-Motor System and Motor Planning:

  • Excessively "careful" with movements
  • Excessively active (e.g., poor safety awareness with movement, "crashes" frequently, often aggressive with play)
  • Poor motor coordination: appears to be "clumsy;" often bumps into things
  • Fine motor deficits (e.g., handwriting, coloring, cutting, and clothing fasteners)
  • Defensiveness/over-sensitivity to any of the following: sound, lights, movement, or variable textures
  • Difficulty attempting other's ideas and novel experiences independently (e.g., likes to be in control of play situations)

Self-Regulation:

  • High or increased emotional reactivity
  • Poor attention span due to either over-activity or under-reactivity
  • Frequently irritable, frustrated, or anxious
  • Delayed language and social skills
  • Challenged or overly "derailed" with transitions and schedule changes
  • Delayed self-care skills and independence with functional tasks


Individuals can respond with varying levels of reactivity to sensory input, which may impact overall processing speed, modulation, and appropriate response to the stimulation. A child may demonstrate hyper/over-reactivity, hypo/under-reactivity, or mixed responsiveness in various areas of sensory processing. Difficulties in these sensory processing areas may impact attention span, activity level, coping skills, successful exploration of the environment, motor skills, play skills, self-help skills, social skills, self-esteem, learning, and emotional regulation.

For more information, contact Cara Grant at 847-480-8890 x20, or via email.

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