Sensory challenges come in many forms: having tags in your clothing irritate and distract you or not being able to feel an object you accidentally sit on; bright lights causing agitation or a feeling you can’t function in dim light; feeling nauseous at food smells or needing food to be heavily spiced; motion sickness or seeking the extreme motion of amusement park rides.
Sensory integration is an important aspect of self-regulation, the ability to calm and focus one’s self. I work with individuals, both adults and children, to help identify sensory challenges and develop strategies to lessen them.
Everyone’s capacity for sensory processing decreases as stress increases. You may notice that there are environments or times that things feel too loud, chaotic, too bright, crowded or overwhelming; these are signs of sensory dysregulation. I teach self-regulation activities that can serve as interventions in times of stress for calming and refocusing.
The nervous system’s processing of information from all of our senses has two aspects, modulation and discrimination. Sensory modulation is the ability to inhibit or repress irrelevant sensory information and focus on what is relevant in the moment. It serves our ability to be flexible and functional as the quicker we ignore irrelevant information the more easily we adapt to our environment. Sensory discrimination is the ability to interpret sensation accurately; these two aspects, modulation and discrimination work together in sensory integration. Difficulties in these two areas are known as sensory integration dysfunction. Sensory integration dysfunction may have a number of origins but neuro plasticity, the brains ability to learn anew, provides the avenue for mitigating sensory dysfunction.
Books with activities, ideas and more information about sensory integration:
- Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight: What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world Sharon Heller 2002
- The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and coping with sensory integration dysfunction. Carol Kranowitz 1998
- How Does Your Engine Run?: The alert program for self-regulation Mary Sue Williams and Shelly Shellenberger 1992