Some children are sensitive, I mean really sensitive. They won’t wear their socks because the material bothers them - it's too 'scratchy' (especially the seams at the toes). They can’t get comfortable and go to sleep because their sheets feel bumpy. They pull away from you when you try to hug them. They won't get their hands messy and feel very uncomfortable if they do. Some start to developing an unhealthy dislike of public places and crowds - won't go to the cinema or use public transport. Going to the dentist is a nightmare. On the other hand some children are really insensitive, talking and shouting too loudly, heavy handed and hitting too hard, pressing too hard when writing with a pencil so the tip breaks or goes through the page, accidentally hurting others or hurting themselves by bumping into things– not out of spite, but because they don't feel their own strength and force and they can't feel self inflicted bumps unless it hurts.
If this sounds like your child, you may have tried Sensory Integration Therapy as they may have been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Sensory Integration is the ability to perceive, attend, and respond to sensory information from the environment. It is the organisation of sensation for use. Sensory Integration therefore needs effective intake and interpretation for an appropriate reaction to that particular stimuli. Sensory Integration Dysfunction is therefore considered to be a disruption in the brain’s ability to organize and respond appropriately to all the sensory input. It may manifest as hyper- or hypo-sensitivity (too sensitive or very insensitive) to touch, movement, sounds, smells or taste, or a combination of any of the five. Sensory Integration Dysfunction was first identified by Dr. Jean Ayres, an Occupational Therapist who noticed children struggling with functional tasks, but who did not fit into specific categories of disability commonly used in the 1960 - 1970's.
Sensory Integration Therapy has been proven to be effective in many ways - and for some children more than others. In my experience most children benefit from Sensory Integration Therapy and I have seen very good performance results through using this therapy method. There are, however, a very small minority of children that need more input and extensive therapy sessions. It may be useful to consider alternative therapy or educational approaches in these cases. There are some alternatives to Sensory Integration Therapy (if your child is one of the "others") that works in a completely different way. One of these approaches is the Learning Rx Brains in a Box.
Alternative - Learning Rx Brains in a Box:
The thinking behind Brains in a Box in relation to Sensory Integration has been explained by imagining a kitten, asleep in a box. If you touch the outside of the box with a feather, trying to wake the kitten he may not wake up. You then take a pen and poke the outside of the box, hoping to wake him, but he continues to sleeps. Next you try to hold a hot water bottle or an ice cube up against the box, but there is still no reaction. The final thing to do is reach inside the box and touch the kitten directly. That is when he wakes up.
The Brains in a Box suggest that children’s brains are like that kitten. Sensory Integration Therapy tries brushing all kinds of different objects against the “box” that is your child’s body, in order to wake the sleeping kitten. Many things may work and resolve, but some of the problems still remain or come back once the therapy is over.
Learning Rx claims to know how to wake the sleeping kitten with specially designed brain training procedures they say actually alter the connections in the brain that cause the dysfunction in the first place. "Once the connections are straightened out, the brain is able to interpret and respond appropriately to sensory input." Click here to learn more about LearningRx brain training.
There are not many known alternatives to Sensory Integration Therapy that result in the desired sensory processing outcomes, however it is refreshing to see something that can claim to be as effective for children who take longer to respond to Sensory Integration Treatment.