Sensory Processing in Adults with Developmental Disabilities Is it Sensory or Behavior? M. Janet Thomas, M.Ed.,OTR/L And M. Lenora Brasher, OT Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development Objectives Define Sensory Processing Describe What is Sensory Integration List all of the Sensory Channels Describe characteristics of high and low thresholds Discuss how Sensory Systems can impact behavior Come up with sensory strategies to facilitate adaptive behaviors Sensory Processing Sensory Processing is the ability to take in sensory information, register that information and respond Sensory Integration The ability to organize sensory information for use in daily life and respond adaptively Examples of Sensory Integration The ability to seek comfort and security in the embrace of a loved one To regulate attention to task The ability to anticipate and show awareness of safety To regulate activity level Sensory Channels Tactile or Touch Vision Vestibular or Auditory Movement Taste/smell Proprioception or Deep pressure Tactile System Touch input Discrimination Protection Tactile Characteristics of high and low thresholds High thresholds Low thresholds Touches people to Grooming is a the point of irritating challenge (hair cuts, others tooth brushing) Doesn’t seem to Bothered by tags notice when face Will only wear and hands are certain clothing messy Moves away when Overstuffs mouth others are too close Vestibular or Movement System located in the inner ear that provides information about where our body is in space, and whether or not we or our surroundings are moving. Tells us about speed and direction of movement Movement Characteristics of high and low thresholds High thresholds Low thresholds Rocks back and Is afraid of heights forth Dislikes riding in a Is in constant car motion has difficulty Becomes dizzy easily sitting still Avoids balancing activities Proprioception or Deep Pressure System activated by muscle activity that tells us where our body parts are and how they are moving. This system leads to body awareness. Body Awareness Issues Exert too much or Tires easily not enough pressure Weak grasp when handling Seems accident objects prone Constant dropping of objects Does not seem to notice when clothing is twisted Visual System Provides information about people and objects. Helps us to define boundaries as we move through space Characteristics of Visual Processing Issues Appears Difficulty finding uncomfortable in objects against a strong sunlight cluttered Has difficulty background scanning the May pay attention to environment detail and fail to see the whole Auditory System System located in the inner ear that is stimulated by sound waves. Gives information about sounds in the environment Auditory Characteristics of high and low thresholds High thresholds Low thresholds Appears not to hear; Defensive to sounds even when called may cover ears Fascinated by Easily distracted by certain sounds and sounds repeats them often Constantly makes noise to block out other sounds Gustatory and Olfactory Systems of taste and smell. Receptors are located on the tongue and in the nasal structure Taste/Smell Characteristics of high and low thresholds High thresholds Low thresholds Excessive need to Poor tolerance to smell items/people perfume Craves strong taste; May gag easily eats toothpaste Has many allergies Does not seem to smell; even strong smells Pica Multisensory Many sensory experiences are multisensory Multisensory Issues Seems oblivious Gets lost easily within an active Has difficulty paying environment attention Looks away to notice all actions in a room Modulation or Self regulation Use of sensory inputs to remain organized, alert and adaptive Sensory Profiles Low registration Sensory Seekers Sensory Sensitive Sensory Avoiders Sensory Diets Sensory inputs or strategies that promote adaptive functioning Sensory Preferences In the words of Williams and Shellenberger, “ to know thy nervous system is to love thy nervous system and others”. Sensory Tools Oral Visual Movement and deep Auditory pressure Touch Detective Work Soper, G., & Thorley, G. C. (1996). Effectiveness of an occupational therapy programme based on sensory integration theory for adults with severe learning disabilities. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59; 10, 475-482. A study on adults who displayed sensory deprived behavior such as teeth grinding, tactile defensiveness and self-stimulatory behavior. All were tested using behavioral checklists, Ayers Scale of Adaptive Responses, and clinical observations. The experimental group received one hour of sensory integration treatment per week The control group received one hour of time in a Snoezelen-type room per week. Results At the end of nine months the sensory integration group did significantly better in vestibular, proprioceptive and general responses than the control group. The researchers concluded that sensory integration procedures are useful in helping older children and adults to participate in activities and to minimize tactile defensiveness and problems of balance and posture. Smith, S. A., Press, B., Koenig, K. P., & Kinnealey, M. (2005). Effects of sensory integration on self-stimulating and self-injurious behaviors. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59:4, 418-425. A study comparing the effects of sensory integration approach and table top activities on the frequency of self-stimulating behaviors in children with PDD and mental retardation. Children were pre and post tested with the Sensory Integration Inventory Revised for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. The study took place over four weeks. During week one and three the children received table top activities such as sorting, puzzles, and peg boards. During week two and four the children received sensory integration intervention. Results This study found that one hour after treatment with the sensory integration intervention self-stimulating and self-in injurious behaviors declined. After one week of table top activities the self-stimulating behaviors increased. Activities rich in vestibular, tactile and proprioceptive input were beneficial in reducing the maladaptive behaviors.
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