Sensory Integration - What it is and what it does...

Sensory integration (also referred to as sensory processing) is a basic neurological process that happens automatically in all of us all the time. Information from the world around us is continuously received by our senses and sent to the brain.  This includes information from our familiar senses of smell, taste, vision and hearing, as well as three more fundamental and less familiar senses:

The tactile sense
, with receptors on our skin from head to toe, receives perceptions about whether we are actively touching something or being actively touched by something else. It recognizes shapes, textures, and sizes of objects in our environment. It helps us distinguish between threatening and non-threatening touch. It tells our brain where “we” stop and the world outside our bodies begins.

The vestibular sense, with its sensors located in our inner ears, tells our brain when we are moving,  what direction we are moving in, which way is up and where our body "is" in space. It is responsible for balance and good posture, as well as our orientation and attention to the world around us.

The proprioceptive sense, which has receptors in all our muscles and joints, gives our brain information about where our body parts are and how they "connect" with the objects they use and how to position our bodies correctly for coordinated movement. It gives us a sense of how hard to push and pull to move and lift objects and ourselves.

The brain receives these messages from our sense organs and organizes and integrates this information to produce meaningful and appropriate responses.

This includes coordinated movement, good balance and postural control and tolerance for everyday sounds, touch, smells and tastes. Effective sensory integration is responsible for self-regulation of attention, arousal, impulse control, frustration tolerance and emotional responses.

These are the foundations for comfortable and coordinated interaction with the world around us, from playing on the playground or sitting and working at our desks at school to using utensils properly to eat our food or socializing comfortably with groups of peers. Adequate sensory processing makes a child ready to learn, and lays the foundation for a child’s sense of mastery and self-esteem.