As a natural part of typical development, children process,
interpret, and respond to sensory information. When
occupational therapy practitioners address the sensory needs of
individuals, they consider the registration, modulation,
organization and interpretation of information gained through
the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and perception of
movement and position. Occupational therapy practitioners
recognize that well-regulated sensory systems can contribute to
important developmental outcomes in social-emotional,
physical, communication, self-care, cognitive, and adaptive skill development.
Five to fifteen percent of children in the general population demonstrate difficulties with sensory
modulation (SMD) (Reynolds, et al, 2008).
For many of these children, occupational therapy can help.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the importance of the sensory systems in
human behavior and occupational performance (Baranek et al, 2002; White et al, 2007). Research
has also provided indirect support for the use of a sensory integrative approach to intervention.
(Baranek, 2002; Miller & Schoen, 2007).
What Can an Occupational Therapist Do?
Occupational therapists can assess an individual’s response to sensory information from the body
and the environment using standardized and non-standardized tests, clinical observation, and
caregiver or teacher interviews. Emphasis often is placed on the tactile (touch), proprioceptive (body
awareness, body position in space) and vestibular (perception of movement) systems.
also assess praxis, the ability to come up with an idea involving action, and to anticipate, time, plan,
sequence, and execute unfamiliar motor actions. This information, along with an analysis of the
sensory, motor, and cognitive demands of activities, the social and physical characteristics of the
environment, and the effectiveness of the individual’s performance skills and patterns in those
activities, forms the basis of the occupational therapy intervention plan.
Sensory integration and praxis dysfunction and sensory processing disorders vary in type and
severity. When a deficit is found in sensory integration, praxis, or sensory processing, occupational
therapy practitioners can provide intervention designed to address these concerns.
Occupational therapy intervention to address sensory processing concerns can be provided
throughout the lifespan. Early intervention focuses on infants and toddlers, birth 3 years of
age, with disabilities or at-risk for developmental problems and their families. Occupational
therapists use their unique expertise to identify sensory related factors and provide interventions to
facilitate effective self-regulation. Therapy practitioners also make modifications to the classroom
environment in order to assist children in participating and progressing at school, playing, making
friends, and focusing in order to learn. Examples might be managing sensory information during
school routines like riding the school bus, tolerating smells and noise in the cafeteria, and playing on
the playground with others.
Occupational therapy strategies may help reduce stress and inappropriate or disorganized behavior
caused by poor sensory registration, sensory defensiveness, sensory overload, and poor praxis.
Occupational therapy practitioners who provide occupational therapy services using sensory
processing approaches work with children to remediate the underlying sensory integration and
praxis factors effecting a student’s education and participation at school.
Please let us know if you have any questions of want to view our Sensory-Motor Gym.
For more information, please visit the articles source, the American Occupational Therapy Association.