Sensory Integration: Why Our Therapy Works

Future Steps therapists focus on the neurological theory of sensory integration. Sensory Integration is the brain’s ability to understand information collected from the seven senses: taste, touch, smell, vestibular (related to gravity and balance), hearing, proprioception (understanding the body and how to use it appropriately) and vision. The brain does this by associating the new ‘sensory’ information with knowledge, experiences and memories that are already there.

A difficulty in these areas, known as Sensory Processing Disorder, can sometimes be problematic to understand, for example “If they have ears and aren’t deaf, then how can hearing be a problem for a child?” The answer to this is poor auditory perception. Unrealised by many, hearing is passive; however listening takes effort and focus to achieve. The problem lies with being unable to listen and separate the ‘useful’ sounds from the less ‘useful’ background noise. Try to imagine a child in the classroom. This child has a sensory processing disorder and cannot filter out background noise. Instead of listening to the teacher, this child hears everything going on around them as continuous and confusing noise.

An understanding of the neurological condition that is Sensory Processing Disorder, doesn’t, however, make it any easier to understand why Future Steps therapy treatment works. Especially when parents, carers, support and educational staff see our treatment rooms. These rooms seem to resemble play areas and the therapy activities look more like fun games rather than occupational therapy treatment designed to change the lives of children in so many ways.

It is important to remember that occupational therapy treatment is a treatment in which a child needs to participate. You cannot force a child into developing their sensory system. Also attempting to coerce children with a promise of more attention and ability in school appears to be futile when applied to the children, some as young as three, that have received treatment in the Future Steps clinic. This is why Future Steps therapy is structured as fun activities, in order to encourage children to participate.

The activities that are presented to children are aimed at developing a child’s ability to interpret what each of the seven senses in their body is trying to tell them (sensory input). This then promotes an adaptive response from children, as their actions during therapy become the appropriate response to their environment, due to the improvement of their sensory integration ability.

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