Sensory Integration Disorder / Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Just the other day, one of my friends was asking about Sensory Integration Disorder. As I had no information, I decided to do some net search and came to know about some relevant and startling facts.

After going through several articles on Sensory Integration Disorder. I was quite surprised to see that my kid showed similar signs.

Like he is sensitive to touch, the kid will ask me to rip off the tag at the back of his T-shirt as it disturbs him.

He is a perfectionist, he will try to do things perfectly and will not stop until he has mastered something, be it building blocks, colouring, learning table manners. You will be surprised, while arranging the table for dinner, he used to ask us to place the table mats first and then place the dinner plate , since he was 3 years of age. (Although his speech did not develop properly, he would point to that particular thing to let us know).

So I was a bit worried at first, but again thought, he is bright and intelligent in all other respect, maybe the “Mother” in me worries a bit too much. Here are some facts regarding Sensory Integration Disorder. Do check out and see, if you find signs in your kid, similar to what stated below…

Sensory integration dysfunction (SID) or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a neurological disorder and a term used to describe difficulty with sensory integration (ability to organize sensory information).

Sensory integration is defined as the neurological process organizing sensation from one’s own body and the environment and to use the body effectively within the environment. Our brain processes multiple sensory modality inputs (from different sensory organs) into usable functional outputs from different parts of the brain. The communication within and among the specialized areas of the brain is known as functional integration.

The concept of sensory integration dysfunction as a discrete disorder was popularized by Anna Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist.

Sensory integration deals with difficulties with processing information of sensory input from multiple sensory modalities. These include 5 classic senses:

  • Vision (sight)
  • Audition (hearing)
  • Tactile stimulation (touch)
  • Olfaction (smell)
  • Gustation (taste)

Other sensory modalities are Vestibular sense (balance and the sense of movement) and Proprioception (the sense of knowing one’s position in space).

Children with SID / SPD frequently experience problems with their sense of touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight including difficulties in movement, coordination and sensing body position in a given space.

They can sense the sensory information but perceive it abnormally as the information is processed by the brain in an unusual way.

This is a common disorder for individuals with neurological conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyslexia, Developmental Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, and Speech Delays, etc.

Various conditions can also involve sensory integration dysfunction, like:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Succinic semialdehyde dehydrogenase deficiency
  • Primary nocturnal enuresis
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Autism including people with traumatic brain injury

SID can be further classified into three main types.

  1. Sensory Modulation Disorder: The patient exhibits a sensory modulation disorder, where he/she seek sensory stimulation due to an over or under response to sensory stimuli. This group may include a fearful and/or anxious pattern, negative and/or stubborn behaviors, self-absorbed behaviors that are difficult to engage or creative or actively seeking sensation.
  2. Sensory Based Motor Disorder: The patient exhibits a sensory based motor disorder. Patients who have this type of SID have incorrect processing of motor information that leads to poor motor skills.
  3. Sensory Discrimination Disorder: The patient has a sensory discrimination disorder, which is characterized by postural control problems.

Signs of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction:

There are several signs, some of which are mentioned below:

  1. Overly sensitive to touch, movements, sights, or sounds: Behavior issues like distractible, withdrawal when touched, avoidance of textures, certain clothes and foods; Fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities such as playground play; Sensitive to loud noises.
  2. Underreactive to sensory stimulation: Intense sensory experiences such as body whirling, falling and crashing into objects.
  3. Unusually high / low activity level: Constantly on the move or may be slow to get going, and fatigue easily.
  4. Coordination problems. May have poor balance, great difficulty learning a new task that requires motor coordination.
  5. Delays in academic achievement / daily activities: May have problems in academic areas, despite normal or above normal intelligence; Problems with handwriting, scissors use, tying shoes, buttoning and zipping clothes.
  6. Poor organization of behavior: May be impulsive, distractible, lack of planning in approach to tasks, does not anticipate result of actions; May have difficulty adjusting to a new situation or following directions; May get frustrated, aggressive, or withdraw when they encounter failure.
  7. Poor self concept: May appear lazy, bored, or unmotivated; May avoid tasks and appear stubborn or troublesome.

Therapy to treat Sensory Integrative Dysfunction:

There are several therapies used to treat SID. A child needs a healthy “sensory diet,” which includes all of the activities that a child performs that gives him/her the necessary sensory inputs that he/she needs to get the brain into better performing sensory integration.

Sensory integration therapy or sensory integrative therapy includes treatments like prism lenses, physical exercise, auditory integration training, and sensory stimulation or inhibition techniques.

The therapy sessions are guided by four main principles:

  1. Just Right Challenge: Tthe child must be able to meet the challenges through playful activities)
  2. Adaptive Response:  The child adapts behavior to meet the challenges presented)
  3. Active Engagement: The child will want to participate because the activities are fun)
  4. Child-directed:  The child’s preferred activities are used)

The child is generally placed in a room specifically designed to stimulate and challenge all of the senses and is guided to encourage movement within the room.

Children with lower sensitivity (hyposensitivity) may be exposed to strong sensations, while children with heightened sensitivity (hypersensitivity) may be exposed to quieter activities. Treats and rewards may be used to encourage children to tolerate activities they would normally avoid.

So if you are a worried Mom like me, do have a consultation with your child specialist…

src: various Articles on Sensory Integration Disorder / Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Last 5 posts by Malini


  1. Khushi

    Thank you so much for writing this!

  2. Indrani

    Malini, Thanks for the post. A friend of mine, a special educator specializes in teaching children with SID. On a recent visit to S’pore, we got talking about it and I was thinking of reading more on it and when your post came out! Much appreciate your efforts.

  3. January 2011 at Bangalore; India. An International program on “Sensory Processing Disorder” by Carol Stock Kranowitz from USA. She has been a music, movement and drama teacher for over 30 years and is a renowned expert on Sensory Processing Disorder. She is a board Member of SPD Foundation and Editor-in-Chief of S.I. Focus. Her highly acclaimed book is “The Out-Of-Sync Child”.

  4. Malini, great job on writing this post. I am Ushma Goradia, an SI certified physiotherapist with an extensive career in the US. I have opened my clinic in North Bangalore just a year ago. While working with parents since then, I am baffled by the lack of awareness, parents’ denial, food habits, child raising pattern. etc. It is also very sad to see how sensory integration has just become a buzzword here. The need of the hour is to provide quality therapy (rather than quantity) and provide parents with resources so that they don’t run from pillar to post.

    Please visit my website. You can also follow my blog

    Any comments are welcome.

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