What Is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is how the brain and body organize sensory input from the environment and how the body reacts to it. Sensory integration includes our senses such as how we hear, what we taste, smell, see and touch. These sensory inputs are integrated together during our everyday activities. For example, if a child is playing soccer, he is using sight to look at the ball, proprioceptive to coordinate his moments to kick the ball and vestibular to know where his spatial orientation is on the field. It’s important that our bodies can react to the sensory input we are getting and it can be difficult if we have a deficit in any of our senses. We have talked about 5 components that are part of sensory integration. There are also two other components to sensory integration: the vestibular system and the proprioceptive system.

The vestibular system is a structure in the inner ear that is responsible for balance and spatial orientation. Spatial orientation refers to knowing where your position is in space; whether you are right-side up or upside-down. It can also refer to if you are moving in different positions, such as going up and down on a swing or riding in a car. The vestibular system is important for your body to have precise and well-timed movements when walking or running. This system is also responsible for your balance. Balance does not just mean balancing on things, but staying balanced when you are walking or standing. Signs of vestibular deficits may include fearful reactions to activities such as jumping on a trampoline, swinging or walking up inclines. Individuals may appear to be clumsy or uneasy about walking or jumping.

Another component to sensory integration is the proprioceptive system. This system is responsible for the communication and awareness of our muscles, joints and tendons. Proprioception is important for our bodies to coordinate everyday movements. These movements can consist of fine motor movements (example: holding a pencil) and gross motor movements (example: kicking a ball). It can also help us control our movements whether we are walking up stairs or jumping on a trampoline. Signs of proprioceptive deficits may include slumping when sitting, bumping into things frequently, biting or playing rough.

As we have stated before, sensory integration is responsible for sensory input from the environment and how our body senses and reacts to it. It is important that all of our senses, including vestibular and proprioceptive, are functioning properly.

If you have any concerns regarding your son or daughter’s sensory integration, feel free to reach out to Chicago Occupational Therapy and we can answer any and all questions you might have! Click the purple button below or call 773-980-0300.

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