Over the years, many studies have demonstrated a link between sensory integration therapy and improving the quality of life for autistic people.
Sensory integration therapy is a valuable tool to teach autistic children how to interact with their environment. One of the main difficulties autistic children face is how they perceive the environment. Oftentimes, their sensory impulses are contradictory to what is expected by society.
Autistic children often have severe difficulty managing their sensory perceptions and a host of seemingly self-destructive behaviors or actions that are perceived to be senseless is the result. Autistic people sometimes cannot perceive their own physicality and must resort to these behaviors to "feel" something. For instance, some autistic children may bang their head against a wall or spin around in circles. Others have been known to self harm or crash into objects. These behaviors are the direct result of sensory integration impairment.
The process of sensory integration therapy seeks to mitigate these behaviors by teaching how to incorporate information gathered through the senses: smell, taste, touch, hearing, and vision, and combine these stimuli with what is already know to produce proper responses.
As with levels of severity of autism, there are also different levels in which autistic children experience sensory integration dysfunction (SID). These levels range from mild to severe and can either manifest in a lack of sensitivity to the environment or a constant state of over-sensitivity.
Sensory integration therapy seeks to teach the nervous system how to process stimuli in a normalized fashion. A. Jean Ayers, Ph.D., was the first to research the process known as sensory integration therapy. She built the foundation of the therapy that has been instrumental in helping autistic children all over the world. Using a variety of sensory and motor exercises for the central nervous system it is actually possible to teach the brain how to accomplish this.
Typically, an occupational therapist or physical therapist is the professional that practices sensory integration therapy. Using various techniques it is possible to improve concentration, listening skills, physical balance, motor functioning, and impulse control in autistic children.
While it is not successful in 100% of cases, sensory integration therapy has been shown to be a valuable tool for helping those with autism cope with their environment and lead a better, more adjusted life. Each autistic child has different symptoms and it is necessary to devise a plan for each individual when initiating sensory integration therapy.
If you wish to find a sensory integration specialist for your child, there are a number of ways you can go about it.
First, you can ask the guidance department at your local public or private school. If you know someone else who has an autistic child in sensory integration therapy, it is always recommended to get a word of mouth referral.
In addition, there is contact information for leading organizations that deal with sensory integration therapy and autism.
Sensory Integration International, located at 1602 Cabrillo Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501, is an excellent place to begin. Their phone number is (310) 533-8338. If you are looking for an actual practitioner, try the American Occupational Therapy Association, located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, P.O. Box 31220, Bethesda, MD, 20824. You can contact them by phone at this number: (301) 652-2682.
It is important to keep a positive frame of mind when dealing with autism. There is constant research and valuable studies that are shedding light onto this disorder and finding new and innovative ways to treat it.
Sensory integration therapy should not be used as a standalone treatment. Diet, nutrition, and fun methods of learning can all help autistic children interact with the social world in a more productive fashion.
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