“. . .ongoing developments in neurobiology are strongly supportive of one of the basic assumptions of SIT, namely, that exposure to a sensory enriched environment leads to beneficial physical changes in the developing brain, such as increased synaptic connections. In one current neurodevelopmental model, co-authored by Drs. Barbara Thompson and Pat Levitt (2010), early exposure to a proper degree of sensory stimulation is theorized to build a neurobiological foundation for later-emerging functions such as motor skills, language, behavioral regulation, and executive functioning. “(Essay: The Current Status of Sensory Integration Therapy Florence Clark Tue, Aug 7 2012)
As an essential part of my Occupational Therapy practice, I consult with each parent about their child’s sensory needs and recommend specific activities and practices they can incorporate into their child’s daily routine (called sensory diet) to augment OT and help regulate their daily functions. (Check out my article Sensory Interventions and Supports for ASD Jul 28, 2009 Education.com) This sensory diet becomes the foundation for a lifelong habit of sensory integration activities that promote continued improvements in quality of life for the former OT client.
Each day has its own sensory regulation cycles. Among the more familiar are: waking up, eating, socializing, learning, sports, resting, and bedtime. Within each major task are specific preparation procedures which can be used to focus your mind and body for that activity. Even warm-up exercises in preparation for a fine motor skill activity can prove beneficial. As an example for handwriting, see this list of warm-up exercises.
In the event that you are prone to sensory overload, you can implement lifelong strategies to Outsmart Sensory Overload. Through awareness of your own sensory needs and deficits, you can adapt by adopting strategies to overcome them. For a college student and office worker, there are long hours sitting at a desk or in a task chair at a workstation. Regular transitions called ‘change-ups’ can improve circulation, activate the brain, and motivate you for continued effort. This frequent change of positioning provides:
- proprioceptive and vestibular input.
- help to refocus attention on classroom tasks by maintaining “physical and attending readiness”.
- can be adapted for use ANYWHERE.
Recent classroom adaptations are demonstrating the relationship between sensory activities and learning. Watch this video from ABC News
Among some of the more popular lifelong activities which could be used for sensory integration are:
- Playing a musical instrument
- Karate, or other martial art
- Team sport
- Visual Arts
- Hiking, and other wilderness sports
It has been known for generations that regular physical exercise promotes lifelong health benefits, such as for weight control and prevention of certain late-onset illnesses like diabetes. Lifelong physical exercise is also becoming recognized as a benefit for sensory integration and mental health through maintaining neuroplasticity in the brain, proprioceptive and vestibular adaptiveness, and general sensory integration.