Sensory Integration Disorder Development & Therapy

Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), also known as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition where the body's nervous system lacks the ability to properly pick up on sensory cues from the surrounding environment and react accordingly. A healthy nervous system is designed to instantly interpret and respond to stimuli from afferent neurons; the general term for this system of sensory scanning and processing is multisensory integration.

With SID, the multisensory integration system cannot detect and provide feedback to sensory cues in the way that a functional nervous system needs in order to operate normally. 

Depending on its severity, SID can mildly, moderately, or severely inhibit the visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, or general proprioceptive capabilities of those who have it. The symptoms of SID manifest on a sliding spectrum, leaving some with the condition relatively capable of independent function and others entirely incapable of caring for themselves.

Different people with SID tend to experience varying levels of impairment in certain senses. While the development of SID in one person may primarily affect their spatial balance in moving vehicles, another case of SID may make it difficult for a person apply the proper amount of tension in their hand to use common handheld utensils.

Prevalence

A study carried out by Dr. Ayelet Ben-Sasson examined a sample of children in New Haven, Connecticut that had all been born between July 1995 and September 1997. The results of the study showed that 16 percent of 7-to-11-year-olds in the sample exhibited symptoms of SID, a percentage equivalent to approximately one in every six children. The percentage of children observed with SID symptoms in the study, while relatively high, is not a representation of any consensus on the prevalence of SID throughout the nation as a whole.

In a similar study that preceded Ben-Sasson's observation of SID symptoms New Haven children, Dr. Roianne R. Ahn, PHD reported a prevalence of SID symptom manifestation that only came out to one in every twenty children.

Currently, there is still a fair amount of room for more research to shed light on what the true nationwide and global prevalence of SID truly is. Because there is so much variance in the ways that different SID symptoms can manifest between individual, along with high variance in severity of those symptoms, accurately detecting the disorder on the lower end of the spectrum can be challenging.

How Sensory Integration Development Develops

Research on an exact cause for the development of SID has been inconclusive. Currently, the most substantive finding about a common cause of the disorder is that it may be genetically predisposed. This was determined after a 2006 study of SID-affected twins showed the twins to share a high-level sensitivity to light and sound.

Therapies to Manage Symptoms

Because different SID cases are unique in the challenges they create, individual treatment programs are fine-tuned to the patient's personal needs for sensory training. An adaptable treatment methodology used by therapists to help children with SID is sensory integration. Hypersensitivity related discomfort is commonly addressed using seamless clothing. This is a great tool especially for children.

Children with SID will oftentimes have one particularly strong hypersensitivity that makes it difficult for them to react and play with others in a productive manner. In sensory integration treatment, therapists will engage these children in sense-training games to help them develop better response patterns. Parents are also encouraged to learn alongside their children to better understand and help their children.

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