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What is Sensory Integration Dysfunction?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Sensory integration dysfunction (SID) is a condition that causes the brain to have trouble processing information about the senses. People who suffer from sensory processing deficits have difficulty determining how things taste, feel, smell, look, or sound. They will either over-react or under-react to stimuli from these senses. Problems with the vestibular system are also quite common among patients with sensory integration dysfunction.

Sensory integration dysfunction was first identified in the early 1960s by Dr. A. Jean Ayres. Although this neurological disorder can be a single diagnosis, it is also a characteristic of many other illnesses. People who suffer from sensory integration dysfunction may also have Tourette’s Syndrome, dyslexia, autism, cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, or speech delays. Sensory integration dysfunction is also a common complication of premature birth.

Sensory integration dysfunction can cause mild, moderate, or severe problems with daily activities. In some cases, sensory integration dysfunction may not be noticed immediately. However, most patients are diagnosed in the early childhood years after a parent or caretaker notices that the child’s behavioral quirks are causing developmental problems.

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Since sensory integration dysfunction affects each person differently, it can be sometimes be difficult to obtain a proper diagnosis. Some people suffering from sensory processing deficits will complain about the feel of clothing on their skin and the taste of certain foods, while others will be very sensitive to unusual smells and sounds in their environment. Clumsiness, aggressiveness, behavior problems, poor academic achievement, and a lack of creative play are also quite common among people who suffer from this condition.

Sensory integration dysfunction is typically diagnosed by an occupational therapist, although a primary care physician may make a referral if he/she suspects the disorder. To diagnosis the condition, the occupational therapist will administer tests known as the Winnie Dunn Sensory Profile, the Analysis of Sensory Behavior Inventory-R (ASBI-R), the Sensory Profile Assessment (SPA), or the Sensory Integration Praxis Test (SIPT). These tests evaluate the child’s medical history, developmental delays, and behavior patterns to determine the presence of sensory processing deficits.

There is no cure for sensory integration dysfunction, but treatment is available. Sensory integration therapy performed by a trained occupational therapist can help the patient learn to stimulate the senses. Sometimes referred to as a “sensory diet,” this form of therapy can include activities such as stringing beads, playing with modeling clay, or listening to music. Parents are encouraged to become involved in sensory integration therapy and assist in helping the child perform the assigned exercises on a regular basis.

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