Written by Liz Green, OTR/L, BCP, SIPT-C, & Owner of Link OT
Over 1 in 20 children in the U.S. (and growing) have difficulties processing external stimuli like sounds, lights, and temperatures. These sensory processing challenges often affect individuals with learning disabilities and can make it difficult to complete daily living tasks.
As an advanced trained occupational therapist, I have over 20 years of experience helping people manage sensory processing challenges. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of sensory issues and share a few strategies that occupational therapists use to help patients make sense of the world around them.
Sensory Integration (SI) is an evidence-based framework created by Dr. Jane Ayres in the 1970s. SI has evolved into an occupational therapy tool that’s proven effective across a wide range of patient abilities and age groups.
Sensory integration refers to how a person organizes and interprets the information around them. Some people process internally (in the body) while others process externally (in the environment). People with sensory processing challenges frequently have trouble with daily living tasks like doing homework or cooking dinner. Sensory integration challenges are common in children with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.
There are six categories of sensory processing disorders:
Since every person integrates sensory input differently, there is no “one size fits all” solution. Instead, occupational therapists work one-on-one with patients and develop strategies that work best for them and help improve self-regulation skills. The more regulated someone is, the more likely they are to monitor their actions, thoughts, and impulses, increasing their ability to participate in daily activities.
For example, here are several strategies occupational therapists may use to work with clients who have sensory processing challenges:
If you or anyone in your family is experiencing sensory integration issues, consider making an appointment with an occupational therapist. You can find an in-network OT using Wayfinder’s directory, or by speaking to your insurance company.
Liz Green, B.S., OTR/L has 20 years of experience as an occupational therapist (OT) in a variety of clinical settings. Her passion is to empower neurodistinct individuals in meeting self-directed goals that promote meaningful participation in work, school and life. She also has a certificate in DEI for HR through Cornell University. By combining advanced expertise as an OT with an HR concentration in DEI, Liz has created the first ever neurodiversity consultancy model that gets inside of the psychology of what it means to think, process, interact, and self-regulate differently. In turn, Liz is educating global companies on the intersection between disclosure and psychological safety and company culture and retention. She has spoken at regional and national conferences, including Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado (OTAC) and College Autism Network (CAN).