Sensory Integration Materials
Sensory integration dysfunction is the inability to process and manage incoming sensory information.Dr. Jean Ayres, who coined the term, also introduced body-centered sensory systems through which people experience the world. They are the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems. Children with sensory integration dysfunction can be hypersensitive, hyposensitive or a combination of the two. After an assessment, an occupational therapist will recommend various sensory integration materials to address a child’s unique processing issues.
The tactile system provides information on pressure, pain and temperature through the skin. A child with a hypersensitive response complains about shirt labels, sock seams or itchy fabrics. You can purchase shirts without labels, seamless socks and natural materials like cotton. Another example of tactile defensiveness is a child who avoids messy activities such as splashing in a puddle. Sensory integration materials for this child include touchable bubbles, finger painting or a mist spray fan.
Your therapist may recommend the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol or a weighted vest to decrease the child’s tactile hypersensitivity. The Wilbarger brush has soft bristles and is used in conjunction with deep pressure activities. Therapists have developed protocols for weighted vests. Deep pressure from a weighted vest lowers the heart rate, blood pressure and creates a sense of calm.
The vestibular system processes information on balance and movement using sensory receptors in the upper neck, inner ear, eyes and the body. A child with a hyposensitive response is in constant motion. They love to rock, spin, bounce and tumble. Sensory integration materials for this child are swings, balancing boards, therapy exercise balls, trampolines and see saws.
The proprioceptive system provides information on your body’s position and movement. Receptors for this system are in the joints, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue and muscles. Children with a hypersensitive response crack their knuckles and stomp their feet as they walk. Some also chew on their fingers, toys, pencils and collars. They like to be swaddled in blankets. Effective sensory integration materials include hand weights to carry during walks, stress balls and modeling clay. Weighted blankets and vests provide the proprioceptive input they crave.