The term ‘sensory integration’ refers to the processing, integration and organisation of sensory information coming from the body and the environment – meaning how we experience, interpret and respond to (or ignore) sensory information. We collect sensory information through eight sensory The term ‘sensory integration’ refers to the processing, integration and organisation of sensory information coming from the body and the environment – meaning how we experience, interpret and respond to (or ignore) sensory information. We receive sensory information through eight sensory systems: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance, proprioception and interoception.
Sensory integration affects the development and functioning of cognitive, social and physical skills. Sensory integration is important in all the activities we do on a daily basis: getting dressed, eating, moving, socialising, studying and working. Therefore, if these systems do not work as they do in most people, a person may experience difficulties affecting their mental health and wellbeing throughout their lives. For example:
- not wearing certain items of clothing or feeling uncomfortable wearing them
- a strong reaction when cutting hair or nails
- selective and restrictive eating, such as the consumption of food with the same texture or taste most of the time
- sitting at a desk at school and understanding the tasks
- learning new skills, such as riding a bike/car, playing a musical instrument or playing ball games
- inattention to objects in the environment leading to injury
- participation in cultural or other social events
- developing ideas for plans at work
- lack of energy and/or a quick-tempered mood at the end of the day
- a strong preference not to be touched by other people, including in intimate relationships
It is possible that in addition to a sensory disorder, a person has other diagnoses: autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder, personality disorder, psychotic disorders and trauma. However, sensory difficulties or a disorder may be a partial cause of certain mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression.
Disorders are not limited to children; adults have likely taken steps during their lifetime to hide or otherwise deal with their difficulties. However, an adult may not be aware of why they have these difficulties – they see them as part of their behaviour or personality. Sometimes, an adult uses coping methods that have a rather negative impact on their life, such as avoiding activities that lead to conflicts between people.
A sensory integration therapist is a specialist who has received adequate additional training (such as an occupational therapist). The therapist can assess whether the person has a sensory peculiarity or a disorder. Assessment tools include interviews, standardised questionnaires and observations. As a result A sensory integration therapist is a specialist who has received postgraduate training (such as an occupational therapist). The therapist can assess whether the person has a sensory difficulty or a disorder. Assessment tools include interviews, standardised questionnaires and observations. As a result of the assessment, it is possible to find out which sensory system works differently and how and what is the most suitable subtype of the disorder in question. Sensory under-responsivity, over-responsivity, discrimination and dyspraxia are different subtypes and what kind of help the therapist can provide and how depends on the subtype.
Therapy involves raising awareness of a person’s sensory needs through conversations and reading materials. Sensory integration therapy with children takes place in a sensory integration room, where the therapist guides the child through playful activities. It is also possible to provide adaptations or aids in the home or school environment and adjust the daily schedule for children. They support the child’s development and prevent or reduce reactions that affect daily life. Adults can also make adjustments to the environment, their daily routine and the use of aids. In addition, methods of self-regulation are being developed in therapy.
The initial assessment of sensory integration takes place as an in-person appointment, in some cases we can offer a video consultation. After the initial assessment and upon agreement, the assessment and intervention can take place at the patient’s home.
We provide the service in Estonian and English.