Sensory Integration and Kids with Autism

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

Ever since my seven-year-old son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism, we’ve had an occupational therapist in our lives. They’ve helped us with everything from handwriting to buttoning clothes to riding a bike. Norrin has had occupational therapy in our home, at school and at a sensory gym. Sensory integration has always been a part of his occupational therapy sessions. And Norrin’s therapists have always suggested we follow a “sensory diet.”

Sensory Integration Disorder is considered a neurological disorder that results from the brain’s inability to integrate certain information received from the body’s five basic sensory systems. These sensory systems are responsible for detecting sights, sounds, smell, tastes, temperatures, pain, and the position and movements of the body. 

I came across a recent article on Disability Scoop about, “a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests that [sensory integration therapy] can reap meaningful gains [for kids with autism] in significantly less time than the 40 hours per week often recommended for traditional behavior therapy.

I’ve had some education professionals dismiss Norrin’s need for occupational therapy. Once a child enters the public school system, the more difficult it is to retain related services. And many public schools (at least in New York City) do not have rooms dedicated for occupational therapy or OT equipment. Once a friend (who has a pretty high position at the NYC Department of Education) said that occupational therapy didn’t academically help kids with autism, it just made them a more ‘well-rounded person.’

Well I beg to differ! I’ve seen the difference sensory integration therapy and the right sensory diet can make. I’ve seen how much calmer and focused Norrin is after an hour of swinging or a few minutes of a brush massage.

Roseann Schaaf (occupational therapist and neuroscientist who conducted the study) said, “By changing how sensations are processed and integrated by the brain we help children with autism make better sense of the information they receive and therefore use it to better to participate in everyday tasks.

I feel so positive about this study. Currently, ABA is the only the therapy that is scientifically proven to help kids with autism. A study suggesting that sensory integration therapy can be equally, if not more so, for kids with autism, can only help.

What do you think? Has your child had sensory integration therapy?  What improvements (if any) have you seen?

 

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