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Sensory Integration definition

a clinical frame of reference for the assessment and treatment of people who have functional disorders in sensory processing


trademark developed for Jean Ayres Sensory Integraiton

sensory integration defined by Ayres

organization of sensation for use

adaptive response

when a child organizes a successful, goal directed action on the environment.


motor planning that depends of somatosensory processing and influences one's interactions with the physical world.

Effects on development, learning, and behavior

Sensory input must be actively organized and used by the child to act on and respond to the environment.

passive versus active participation

A child does not passively absorb sensations. Rather, they actively select the sensation most uselful at the time and organize them in a fashion that facilitates accomplishing goals.

Inner drive

speculated to be generated by the limbic system, refers to idea that adaptive response comes from within a child.

hierarchic model of CNS

neurobiologist prior to Ayres, views the nervous system in terms of vertically arranged levels when higher levels regulate lower levels with "descending inhibition"

Ayres hierarchic view of CNS

Increased efficiency at the brainstem and thalmus enhance higher order functioning

Age of 7 or 8

on standardized tests of sensory integrative capabilites reflect near adult maturity

Proximal versus distal

in infancy proximal senses dominate

Influences of identity

family and culture, interpretations given by others, talents and abilities, and chance events

Prenatal period sensory development

tactile stimuli by 5 1/2 weeks gestation, moro reflex at 9 weeks, followed by other primitive reflexes. Stress in early pregnancy can have diminished responses to vestibular input.

Neonatal period

Touch, smell, and movement. Cuddling and phasic movements of limbs generate proprioceptive input that leads to body scheme. Rocking and carrying soothe infant. Being raised to caregivers shoulder increased alertness. Pull of gravity against neck muscles begins to develop righting responses. Attracted to high contrast visual stimuli. Begins to use eye contact to interact with caregivers.


ability of child to regulate responses to changing stimuli by initiating behaviors that will be calming or energizing.

Postural control

begins 4-6 months. from increased interest in the world and vestibular-proprioceptive-visual connections. Infants have an inner drive to rise up against gravity. begins with child in prone position with neck and trunk extensors and evolves into weight bearing positions.

Somatosensory development 1st 6 months

primitive grasp, brings hands to midline, evolves into hand-eye coordination, neonatal reflexes no longer dominate behavior. Rolls from prone to supine. Behavior becomes goal directed.

Midline hand play

a significant milestone in the integration of sensations from 2 sides of the body


marker of beginning of occupational engagement.

Second 6 months

mobility, more sophisticated integration of somatosensory, vestibular, and visual inputs. Body scheme and spatial perception begin. Develops fine pincher grasp. Transfers objects from one hand to the other. Auditory processing and babbling begins. Self feeding initiates. Chewing and swallowing develop. use of spoon begins end of the 1st year and dining as an occupation.

Second year

balance and dynamic posture control, body scheme and motor planning evolve, symbolic or imaginary play begins, praxis begins.

3-7 years

strong inner drive, play and games, crafts, constructional play, and video games, playground equipment, motor planning games, cultural tools.

Fine motor tasks

requires coordinating visual and somatosensory information to position hands and maintaing a stable postural base.

When problems occur in sensory integration

children develop a tendency to avoid or reject simple sensory or motor challenges. Refusal or tantrums may occur when pushed to perform.


1st group of tests developed by Ayres. Later revised and renamed SIPT (sensory integration and praxis test). Measure aspects of visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and vestibular sensory processing and motor planning.

Factor analysis

used to develop typology of sensory integrative dysfunction.


groups of associated test scores

Cluster analysis

use of factor analysis and this statistical technique led to development of groups of children with similar SIPT profiles, used to define diagnostic groups used today. Critical to interpretation of SIPT scores.

prinicple of ASI theory

patterns of sensory integrative problems represent neural dysfunction rather than developmental lag

Associated factors

1. visual and tactile perception with praxis 2. vestibular and proprioceptive processing with bilateral functions 3. attention and tactile defensiveness 4. visual and tactile discrimination

sensory integrative dysfunction, sensory integrative disorder, and sensory integrative problems

refers to a heterogenous group of problems that reflect subtle neural differences involving multisensory and motor systems, assumes that peripheral function is normal

3 main types of sensory processing disorders by Miller, Anzalone, Lane, Cermak, and Osten

sensory modulation disorder (overresponsivity, underreponsivity, and sensory seeking), sensory-based motor disorder, and sensory discrimination disorder

4 types defined by text

sensory modulation problems, poor sensory discrimination and perception, problems related to vestibular-prorioceptive functions, difficulties related to praxis

sensory modulation

the tendency to generate responses that are appropriately graded in relation to incoming sensory stimuli (rather than to over or under react as in dysfunction)

Circular relationship of responses

child who is extremely defensive may be overloaded to the point of shutting down and become underresponsive

Dunn's 4 patterns of sensory responding

low registration, sensation seeking, sensitivity to stimuli, and sensation avoiding. 4 quadrants figure 11-9 pg 344

Miller's ecologic view

figure 11-10 includes internal and external dimensions affecting sensory modulation

sensory registration problem

difficulties of the person who frequently fails to attend to or register relevant environmental stimuli. May be overfocused on irrelevant stimuli.

sensation seeking

underresponsive to incoming stimuli, seek large quantities of intense stimulation


hyperresponsive or sensory defensiveness includes tactile defensiveness, gravitational insecurity, and may include sound, odors, or tastes

gravitational insecurity

charecterized by slow cautious movements, try to keep feet in contact with ground, avoids tilting head in different planes (especially backward), ability to play is seriously effected

postural insecurity

different from gravitational insecurity, tend to slump posturally, not because of hypersensitivity to vestibular input but because they lacked adequate motor control to perform many activities without falling

tactile discrimination

impaired fine motor skills, associated with visual perception, hand-eye coordination problems, important for development of body scheme which becomes foundation for praxis

proprioceptive discrimination

cannot be measured by standardized tests, appear clumsy and akward, with poor tactile perception they often rely on visual cues and cognitive strategies, seen with use of too little or too much force in activities, seek firm pressure to their skin or joint compression and traction

visual perception

figure-ground perception, spatial orientation, depth perception, and visual closure; associated with problems with grasp, balance, locomotion, construction, and cognition. Low scores on visual perception does not necessarily indicate sensory intregration problem. May chose to work with child on other approaches like visual perception training, use of compensatory strategies, or skill training in specific activities.

vestibular-proprioceptive problems

involves motor functions that are outcomes of vestibular processing, seen with poor equilibrium reactions, low muscle tone especially of extensor muscles, slouching posture, poor postural stability, and difficulty keeping head upright

postural and bilateral integration

seen with vestibular processing problems includes low muscle tone, immature righting and equilibrium reactions, poor right-left discrimination, and lack of a clearly defined hand dominance

vestibular-bilateral integration disorder

depressed postrotary nystagmus scores, suggests inefficient central processing of vestibular function, poor bilateral coordination and difficulty sequencing actions

projected action sequences

child anticipates how to move as spatial relationship to environment changes

problems related to vestibular processing disorders

attention, organization of behavior, communication, and modulation of arousal

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