"Sensory Patterns" & a Child's Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours; Understanding the Link
At any one moment in time a persons sensory experience includes a combination of touch, movement, body awareness, sight, sound, smell, taste and/or the pull of gravity. The process by which the brain organises, interprets and decides whether or not to use that information is called Sensory Integration. Sensory Integration (SI) plays an essential role in attention, concentration and emotional regulation and is the foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour.
Certain things we do can rev us up, or arouse the nervous system (e.g. eating sour lollies) while others experiences can be quite soothing and calming (e.g a warm bath). Our nervous system can also be overly sensitive to certain stimuli and under responsive to others, which plays a big part in our unconscious day to day behaviours and habits. Examples of this are how some people enjoy a morning shower to wake them up, feel uncomfortable when trying to speak to someone in a loud room full of people and love the feeling of being wrapped up in a soft blanket.
Everyone has their own unique "sensory appetite". Understanding a child's sensory appetite or preferences, provides insight into their nervous system which helps us to then structure their day and activity level to optimise their ability to function effectively. This information can also be used when developing strategies and plans to support children manage acute episodes of anxiety, anger, hyperactivity and low mood.
Wheatbelt Occupational Therapy uses a function-focused approach to sensory integration. This means our as standard practice we perform a sensory profile for each client upon referral to help shape their individual therapy plan as we believe anyone with a nervous system can benefit from greater insight into how theirs works. When necessary we can take this further and use that insight to help children manage their mood, attention, concentration and behaviour more effectively through strategies such as sensory diets/menus, crisis action plans and sensory rooms or spaces at home and at school.