Parents do not always know what sensory integration therapy is really about when they enrol their child in it. After all, the child is always playing - jumping on the trampoline, swinging, rolling, climbing.... Almost like in a playroom. And that's what it's all about - children playing don't even know they are exercising, and their brain and muscles are doing a lot of work. After all, sensory integration therapy is a kind of "scientific play", which aims to better integrate sensory impressions that reach the child's brain. But it is not just play for play's sake, every activity has a purpose and serves a purpose.
The therapy is carried out in a specially equipped spacious room by a qualified therapist and is usually pleasant and attractive for the child. During the various activities, the children play on swings, jump on the trampoline, roll around in a barrel, ride a special skateboard, overcome obstacle courses, etc. While they are playing, they are completely unaware that their brains and muscles are doing a lot of work at the same time.
Of course, sensory integration therapy is different for every child because it depends on the type of disorder the child has, his or her age, abilities and even interests. Every child should have a written therapy plan at the beginning of the therapy, according to which the therapist will work. A child who is hypersensitive to stimuli will have different needs, and a child who seeks sensory experiences will have completely different needs. However, in each of these cases the basis will be to provide vestibular and proprioceptive sensations, i.e. sensations that come from movement and hard muscle work. If a child intensively seeks sensations of movement, he or she will have more of these activities during the course of the therapy, in order to be able to satisfy his or her sensory needs. However, there are children who are afraid of movement or who avoid certain types of movement such as swinging or spinning. In this case the movement games will be introduced gradually so that the child can get used to the new type of movement and so that the child is not over-stimulated.
Many children attending sensory integration therapy have tactile hypersensitivity. In this case, the therapist incorporates activities that stimulate the tactile system, various types of massage, playing with different substances, sensory masses, loose materials such as rice, groats, and beans. The aim of all this is for the child to increasingly better tolerate the stimuli of superficial sensation. Similarly in the case of auditory hypersensitivity, the therapy includes activities to stimulate the sense of hearing, playing with instruments, animal and machine noises, sound toys etc.
In addition to hypersensitivity and hypersensitivity disorders, some children also have postural disorders. In this case the therapist does a lot of exercises with the child to strengthen postural tension, muscle strength and to improve balance and coordination. The children exercise on large balls, they perform tasks with a rope or a special skateboard, they overcome various obstacle courses, they play imitating movements and they do many other interesting things.
It is really impossible to describe everything that a child can do in sensory integration therapy. To find out, it is best to ask the therapist to come into the room, at least at the beginning of the therapy, and to see exactly what the exercises are. Some of the activities can later be successfully carried out at home. And yet exercises at home are also an integral part of therapy.
The duration of therapy depends on age-related factors, including the severity of the disorder, but usually the therapy lasts between one and two years. Therapy sessions take place 1-2 times a week and last 45-60 minutes.
It is important to remember that we do not grow out of sensory integration disorders, so the earlier we take action, the better, because the younger the child, the more plastic, i.e. susceptible to changes, the brain.
special educator, specialist in sensory integration