Include Sensory Integration Activity in Everyday Life

Child jumping on trampoline

Child jumping on trampoline

The purpose of pediatric sensory integration therapy for a child with sensory deficits is to jump start his/her development for total mind-body integration and to improve academic performance, personal self help skills, and social development.  This involves a ‘sensory enriched’ protocol of specific therapies  tuned for each child/client across a specific time frame at the OT Clinic.

sensorydiet3According to AOTA President, Florence Clark,

“. . .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 TherapyFlorence Clark 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.

sensorydiet2Recent 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:

  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Walking
  • Karate, or other martial art
  • Team sport
  • Bicycling
  • Jogging
  • 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.

Resources:

Ultimate guide to sensory integration activities-Jennifer A Janes

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About Emily Lauren

Jenny Clark, OTR/L, BCP (AOTA Board Certification in Pediatrics), is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist with over 22 years experience working as a school-based occupational therapist, independent contractor for early intervention services, private practitioner, speaker, consultant, author, and inventor. Jenny currently owns a pediatric therapy private practice, Jenny’s Kids, Inc. Jenny Clark Jenny is the author of the best-selling book on sensory processing entitled Learn to Move, Move to Learn: Sensorimotor Early Childhood Activity Themes(AAPC 2004), (Starter Kit available) More recently Ms Clark has written a sequel Learn to Move, Moving Up! Sensorimotor Elementary School Activity Themes (AAPC 2009). In addition, she has published two DVD’s Learn to Move: Dinosaurs (AAPC 2005), a companion to her first book, and Sensory Processing Disorder Kit: Simulations and Solutions for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists (AAPC 2006), which won the 2007 media in excellence video award from Autism Society of America. Jenny’s newest publication is a music CD, Sing, Move, Learn (AAPC 2010), which accompanies the songs in her first book. Ms. Clark is a contributing author for the book Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals (Greenwood Publishing Group 2007), as well as a chapter author for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Foundations, Characteristics, and Effective Strategies. (Pearson Publishing 2011 by Boutot & Myles). Jenny is the inventor of the Patent-Pending “Weigh” Cool Bracelet. Jenny has spoken both nationally and internationally on a variety of topics, including sensory integration/processing. She received her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and graduated with distinction from the University of Kansas.
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