Sensory integration disorders are referred to as problems with the proper processing of sensations that are received by the senses in children. We can notice the first symptoms of such disorders as early as infancy.
By definition, sensory integration is the orderly organization of sensory stimuli that our body receives through sensory systems, known as receptors. The nervous system has the task of recognizing the incoming stimuli, and then interpreting them and enabling it to elicit an adequate response, called an adaptive response. Sight, hearing, touch, balance and kinaesthesia (sense of movement in space) make up the sensory system, which plays an important role in sensory integration processes.
While still in fetal life, sensory integration processes begin to develop. The vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile systems are then formed. Subsequent phases of development and refinement of all sensory systems continue for several more years after birth, usually until around the age of eight. In some, however, this development process may proceed in a disordered manner. It is estimated that the problem of sensory integration disorders affects up to 20% of children.
Sensory integration disorders – causes
What can be the reasons for the appearance of sensory integration disorders? There may be many of them. For this reason, the specialist should always conduct a detailed interview with the child’s caregivers. Abnormalities are sometimes found already at the stage of prenatal development. For this reason, it is important to know exactly the period of pregnancy and the mode of delivery.
Sensory integration disorders are often due to genetic predisposition, although not only. Of significance are the negative effects of toxic substances consumed during pregnancy (both cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and some medications can be harmful), infectious diseases of the mother or complications during childbirth.
On the other hand, after birth, later in the child’s development, the development of sensory integration disorders is also influenced by environmental factors, cultural conditions, limited interaction with peers and even frequent and long hospital stays.
Types of sensory integration disorders
We currently distinguish between three categories of sensory disorders in children. In the area of sensory processing problems, sensory modulation, motor and sensory differentiation disorders are distinguished.
Motor disorders most often refer to problems with movement in the broadest sense. This refers to the planning of movement itself and the performance of various activities. Sensory differentiation disorders, on the other hand, manifest themselves in the situation of necessary differentiation of emerging sensory stimuli.
The main symptoms of sensory integration dysfunction
Among the most basic symptoms of sensory integration disorders are:
- impaired eye-hand coordination,
- emotional hyperactivity,
- speech disorders,
- Increased or decreased sensitivity to stimuli,
- problems with focusing and concentrating attention,
- problems with writing, drawing and reading,
- low self-esteem,
- hyperactivity or significantly reduced activity,
- Difficulties in daily, self-care activities,
- motor clumsiness,
- difficulties in distinguishing sides, sense of direction,
- impaired interaction with other children.
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