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Sensory integration: A review of the current state of the evidence Nancy Pollock Sensory integration, sensory integrative dysfunction, is defined as “the organiza- sensory processing disorder, sensory modulation, sen- tion of sensory informa- sory diets; all somewhat confusing terms for many occu- tion for use” (p.1). It is a pational therapists, other health professionals, and edu- neurological process that cators. Imagine how most families must feel! In the 45 enables us to make sense years since Jean Ayres presented her Eleanor Clark Slagle of our world by receiving, Lecture (Ayres, 1963) introducing her concept of sensory registering, modulating, or- integration, the field of sensory integration research ganizing, and interpreting and practice has seen tremendous growth and contin- information that comes to ues to engender strong reactions within and outside our brains from our senses. the field of occupational therapy. The controversy has Ayres (1972) hypothesized About the author – recently moved from the professional literature to the that some children have nancy Pollock, MSc, OT lay press. Time Magazine (December 10, 2007) featured an impairment in sensory Reg (Ont) is an Associate an article entitled “Is this Disorder for Real?” reporting on integration which manifests Clinical Professor in the the controversy surrounding the move to have sensory in difficulties observed in School of Rehabilitation Science and an Investiga- processing disorder included in the next revision of the purposeful behaviours. This tor at the CanChild Centre Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. dysfunction in sensory in- for Childhood Disability Given the controversial nature of sensory integra- tegration may explain why Research at McMaster tion, it is important to ensure that practitioners are some children have trouble University in Hamilton, up to date on the current state of the literature and learning new skills, organiz- Ontario. the evidence. Part of the mandate of the CanChild ing themselves, regulating Centre for Childhood Disability Research located at Mc- their attention, participating in school or play ac- Master University in Hamilton, Ontario, is to provide tivities, and engaging in positive social experiences. synthesized reviews to assist in translating knowledge Ayres, and many who have followed her, have worked from research to practice. Available on our website to establish the validity of this theory through clinical www.canchild.ca, these reviews are called Keeping and basic science research. Current and are written so that families, service pro- Through these past decades, researchers and viders, and researchers can access them. The Keeping clinicians have explored many aspects of sensory Current in Sensory Integration, last updated in 2006, integration in a variety of populations including remains one of the most frequently accessed titles on typically developing children, children with learning the website, with an average of 650 hits per month. disabilities, autism, Aspergers, and attention deficit As it is now time to update it, we thought it could also hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As well, assessments of be an important contribution to this special issue of sensory integration have been developed and treat- OT Now. In this article, I will review the discussions ment strategies evaluated. Through all of this work, and debates about terminology, identification and different ideas and understandings about sensory diagnosis, review the evidence for the effectiveness of integration have evolved and authors have begun to sensory integration interventions, and provide some use different terms to describe their perspectives of suggestions for clinicians and families. sensory integration and propose new models. Roley, Mailloux, Miller-Kuhanek, and Glennon (2007) Defining sensory integration describe the rationale for the recent move to trademark Sensory integration is a theory. As with all theories, the term Ayres Sensory Integration©. They suggest that sensory integration has a set of assumptions underly- the use of this term denotes the adherence to the core ing it that propose to explain observed phenomena. principles of Ayres original theoretical framework and As first descr
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