Sensory Integration In a Nutshell

by Lisa Meeks, MA, Varying Exceptionalities

According to research, sensory integration involves three main systems, within the body.  The vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile systems are thought to be enhanced, when sensory integration is implemented within a child’s day.

What is the vestibular system?

First of all, the vestibular system is located in the inner ear and responds to various movements.  It provides sensory input to the brain about the body’s movement through space.  It controls our sense of movement and balance, and influences muscle tone.  Its’ primary function is to coordinate information received from other systems in the body.  Activities used to enhance children’s vestibular system  include: swinging, rocking, jumping, balancing on a balance beam, or one foot, and rolling, just to name a few.  SCEIC offers sensory integration therapy to support and enhance children’s muscle tone and balance, on a daily basis.  Our state of the art playground and indoor therapeutic gym include all of the equipment needed to jump start a child’s vestibular system.

What is the proprioceptive system?

Primarily, the proprioceptors, within this system, are located in the muscles and joints.  It refers to the sensory input and feedback that tells us about movement, body position, weight, and body pressure.  The primary functions of the proprioceptive system are related to motor-planning, executing planned movements, knowing how much pressure is needed to complete a task, such as carrying a cup, and postural stability.  Activities to enhance this system include: jumping on a trampoline, wrapping the body in a weighted blanket, squeezing play-do or clay, hammering tools, pushing large objects, and pulling or dragging heavy objects. 

 SCEIC offers sensory integration therapy to support and enhance children’s motor planning and postural stability, on a daily basis.  Stability pads, therapy balls, weighted vests, small trampolines, and blankets are included in our classroom environment for those who need them most, and our playground offers plenty of space for pushing large toy cars and pulling wagons.

What is the tactile system?

Basically, the tactile system includes nerves under the skins’ surface that send information to the brain.  It involves receptors for light touch, pain, temperature and pressure.  SCEIC offers sensory integration therapy to support and enhance children’s sense of touch and perception of their environment on a daily basis.  Water play, sand and mud play, fun foam, lotion, and finger paint, are just some of the activities offered throughout our daily curriculum.

Why is sensory integration therapy important in a child’s day?

It has been suggested that sensory integration therapy  enhances the child’s ability to focus on educational and social environments, reduces the rate of various inappropriate behaviors, and reflects higher cognitive activity in the brain.  SCEIC aims for individual student success, and for many, sensory integration therapy is key to their success.