What is Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration?

Occupational Therapy is a profession that focuses on assisting the client to achieve full independence and wellbeing within their occupations. The Occupational Therapy profession defines the word occupation as not just your job, but all the activities in your life that are meaningful such as self-care, work, education, social interactions, hobbies or religious activities.

We at Tamaryn Hunter Occupational Therapy, focus on helping children with various difficulties to reach their full potential within their daily occupations. This includes scholastic activities, play, social behaviours, meeting milestones and also achieving emotional wellbeing. We have experience working with children with Sensory Integration difficulties, Dyspraxia, Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down’s Syndrome, Developmental delays and postural/ handwriting difficulties. Our aim is to form a team with parents and teachers to assist in helping children to function optimally.

Our practice specialises in Sensory Integration therapy which is a widely recognised approach in the treatment of children. Sensory integration is the process in which the brain receives and interprets information gathered by the senses that tells us about our body and environment. When a child is able to recognise and respond appropriately to their body and environment, they are able to learn and have fun. If a child struggles to discriminate, modulate or integrate the information it receives from their body, they can find their environment frustrating or scary and will battle to interact with it.

The number of children presenting with Sensory Integration Difficulties is increasing significantly. It is important that these difficulties are identified early and dealt with timeously as they have a large impact on a child’s functioning in the classroom, at home and in social settings.

Common signs to look out for that would indicate there may be Sensory Integration Difficulties:

  • Sensitivity to touch – avoiding any of the following or extreme reactions to them: certain textures of clothes; certain textures of food (and gagging/throwing up when given those textures); hair-cuts and/or brushing; nail-cutting; having their hands messy i.e. avoiding any messy play e.g. playdough, sand play, finger painting etc.
  • Sensitivity to noise– avoiding loud noises and covering their ears e.g. noises like alarms; hair-dryers; hand-dryers; vacuum cleaners; high-pitched screaming or shouting.
  • Sensitivity to certain food flavours/smells – they will only eat foods that are very bland in flavour e.g. fish fingers; chips; pasta without sauce; dry toast etc.
  • Sensitivity to movement – they become car sick easily; can’t tolerate backwards movement or being upside down; have a fear of their feet leaving the ground.
  • Sensitivity to visual stimuli – avoidance of the following: eye-contact; watching a moving object e.g. a ball; bright lights or flickering lights.
  • Seeking out of sensations e.g. swinging/ rocking/ hopping in excess of what would be considered normal; teeth grinding; chewing on objects.
  • Difficulties with self-regulation: seen in challenges with sleep; coping with changes in routine; coping with new, unfamiliar environments or unexpected events;
  • Difficulties with praxis (motor planning): difficulty learning new skills; poor ability to imitate others; poor problem solving skills.

Tamaryn Hunter and Jessica Bonella

Occupational Therapists

Core Medical Centre

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