Boy plays on sensory swingA typical play environment is hectic and full of noise. This experience can be challenging for children with sensory and neurological disabilities, who are often prone to over-stimulation. They sometimes respond with behaviors that are poorly understood or considered disruptive.

You can create areas in your playspace that calm and nurture the senses for children with sensory integration disorders. Other children can also benefit from these special sensory nurturing rooms. Children and their caregivers can spend time in these spaces to relax and focus more effectively on play. Indoors, these might be spaces with white mats and pillows, a vestibular swing, fiber optic lights, and quiet or calming music. Outdoors, you can create a space with muffled noise and muted colors set slightly apart from the main play area.

A few things to know about sensory integration:

  • Sensory development and integration takes place automatically during typical development
  • It evolves as the central nervous system develops and matures
  • As the nervous system matures, it can handle more complex and multiple sensory inputs

Sensory integration dysfunction: when the individual has difficulty processing sensory input

  • Often see a poor quality of response to sensory inputs
  • Behavioral responses are often more frequent, have greater intensity and last for longer durations that you see in a child who has a typically developing nervous system
  • One or more sensory systems might be involved
  • Hyper or hypo responsive or a fluctuating response to sensory input might be seen

Helpful links

Biel, Lindsay, M.A., OTRL and Nancy Peske. (2005). Raising a sensory smart child.

Children's Disabilities Information. (2006). Sensory integration articles and resources.

Fureman, Sasha, OTR/L and Sahd, Tiffany, M.S., OTR/L. (2005). Strategies for sensory success. Washington Parent.

The KID Foundation's SPD [Sensory Processing Disorder] Network,

Martin, Allison. (2006). Sensory Integration Dysfunction: Interview with Carol Kranowitz. Come Unity.

Nackley, Victoria L. OTR/L. (2005). Sensory diet applications and environmental modifications: A Winning combination. Henry OT Services Inc.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center (2007). Sensory integration activities: Treatment that works, skills that matter.