Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What is....occupational therapy, sensory integration, and sensory processing disorder?

So as a pediatric therapist, I am often asked the question...."What is occupational therapy?".

So here is my personal answer to this question:

Pediatric Occupational Therapy is a therapy discipline that specifically focuses on a child’s primary occupation, play.  Occupational therapists are specially trained to assess, evaluate, and treat: sensory processing skills, fine motor skills (grasping and visual motor skills), and self-help skills (daily routines, self feeding, dressing, and sleeping) so that children can reach their optimal potential and be successful with their daily activities in a variety of settings and situations.

I am also often asked....."What is sensory integration?" or "What is sensory processing disorder?".

So here is my formal response to these questions:

Sensory integration is when our senses receive sensory information like sights, sounds, movement, touch, tastes, and smells; and how our body perceives, processes, and reacts to this information.  If our bodies react appropriately, our "system" is most likely integrated and able to function appropriately in a variety of situations. 

“Sensory integration, is the ability to organize sensory information for use...that enables man to interact effectively with the environment”. (Ayres, 1972, p.1)

If we are not able to react appropriately, there may be some "disorder" or an actual issue related to the diagnosis of sensory processing disorder.  There is disorder (a.k.a. sensory processing disorder) when the brain has difficulty taking in and, or interpreting this information to participate functionally and successfully in meaningful tasks.  As a result, there can be difficulty completing daily activities.  Such as, attending to tasks, completing developmentally appropriate activities, completing typical motor skills, engaging with others, and behaving in a socially appropriate way.

One of the best websites for more information about Sensory Processing Disorder is http://www.spdfoundation.net/.  Dr. Lucy Jane Miller is at the forefront of providing education and researching related to sensory processing disorder.  She has written an excellent book: Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder.

For more information regarding occupational therapy, please visit The American Occupational Therapy Website:

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