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Sensory Integration and Autism Does it Work? | The Essential Guide To Autism

Sensory Integration and Autism Does it Work?


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Not all children with autism have sensory problems among their symptoms, but when present they are among the first to become noticeable. Sensory issues can range from being hypersensitive or, at the other end of the scale, having a lack of response to many types of stimulation. However by employing sensory integration and autism therapy these issues can be managed.

The range of sensory integration (SI) issues children with autism face varies dramatically from child to child. Some children are unable to tolerate any loud or unusual noise. Textures of foods and fabrics may be extremely irritating.  Something as simple as a clothing label can feel to an autistic child like insects crawling over their skin.  For these hypersensitive children anything remotely out of the ordinary, such as a loud family gathering with lots of hugging and kissing, can be too much for senses to manage.

On the other end of the spectrum, some autistic children show practically no response to anything at all.  Loud noises are ignored, events or actions that might have an impact on anyone else will pass seemingly unnoticed. 

Though it is not always the case, some classic autistic behaviors can be attributed to the sensory issues themselves.

Some children will deal with feelings of over-stimulation by flapping hands, rocking their bodies, and even walking in different ways. Those behaviors may seem odd, however when you consider that their senses are overloaded, those actions make a great deal more sense. 

It is somewhat logical if an autistic child is over-stimulated, he or she might alter how they do things in order to try to deal with whatever it is that is proving to be overwhelming. These same actions might also be carried out in order to seek sensations that are desired, but not present.

The main objective of sensory integration and autism therapy is to make their environment tolerable and even pleasant for the child if at all possible.  Most sensory integration therapy is incorporated within occupational therapy.

There are many types of activities that are integrated into the therapy to expose the child to sensations of all types; including brushing the skin, motions and movements, music or other auditory stimuli.

The child is exposed over and over again in a controlled environment in the hope that this exposure will help them learn to process the information without becoming startled or overwhelmed. If ST therapy is successful, the child usually becomes calmer and more in control of their actions and other problems, such as tantrums, may also be diminished.

There is debate over how effective SI therapy can be. There are several studies that demonstrate the therapy works well and just as many have illustrated that the therapy has no positive impact and in some case a negative effect.

Some of the controversy with this therapy may lie with unspecialized health care professionals attempting to provide the therapy without enough experience or training. Another point to bear in mind that as each child and each case of autism is different, so the outcome will never be the same for any two children, therefore it is very hard to compare outcomes between two or more children.

When considering sensory integration and autism therapy for your child it is important to speak to a qualified doctor about the potential benefits and setbacks that may occur. Some children with autism simply don’t need this form of therapy, while others will not respond to it at all.  It is the individual situation that will dictate the final result. 

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