Improving learning through sensory integration therapy
Louise Holdsworth, Occupational Therapist and Advanced Sensory Integration Therapist at our Specialist College explains what sensory integration therapy is and how it can benefit students with SEND.
Sensory Integration looks at the way we process sensory information. Some people may struggle to understand what is happening inside and outside their bodies and experience too much or too little through their senses of touch, taste, smell, vision, hearing, body position (proprioception) and movement (the vestibular system). They may also not understand the information that is being sent from the sensory systems, for example, what has touched you and how much pressure it has used.
“My role is to support our students to be able access the College curriculum and maximise their learning opportunities by helping them to overcome any sensory integration difficulty they experience.
Our brain receives information from the outside environment and inside our body which enable us to function in the world. When all of our senses are operating efficiently we build an accurate picture of ourselves and the world.
However, many of our students have sensory integration difficulties where they cannot regulate their sensory systems effectively or process sensory information. This can impact upon their ability to carry out everyday tasks and can have a profound effect on their life. For some of our students this presents additional challenges in their ability to concentrate, learn and benefit from their educational sessions.
When our brain becomes over alerted by too much sensory information adrenaline is produced so our bodies are continually in fight or flight mode. Sensory integration therapy sessions can be used to help calm the student so they are better placed to participate fully in their educational sessions and maximise their opportunity to learn.
Some students need increased input to their proprioceptive and vestibular system –using their muscles and joints for lots of active movement by “playing” on some of our specialist equipment. They are then more able to remain calm and alert and improves their ability to engage in sessions and reduces associated sensory seeking behaviours.
In some cases it may be necessary to adapt the external environment, for example, if a student finds too much visual input overstimulating then we will aim to remove any visual “clutter” and tidy up the surrounding space and keep the walls clear. If the stimulus is auditory then we find a suitable quieter working space for that student.
Once I have assessed a student and put a plan in place the results of sensory integration therapy can often be seen quickly. Staff and family can see positive effects such as improved physical ability (balance, ability to sit), learning outcomes (through improved concentration) and wellbeing (feeling calmer and less anxious) of a student. And that’s when I know I’ve achieved my goal!”Find out more about the educational opportunities we offer for young people with SEND
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