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|The Impossible Child - Page 15|
SI theory is the life work of the late Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and educational psychologist whose observations of neurologically impaired children caused her to wonder about the contribution of the senses to behavior. She was particularly interested in the "hidden senses"--those that provide information about balance, the position of our bodies in space, touch, pain and temperature. Her work at UCLA's Brain Research Institute in the 1960s convinced her that irregularities in sensory processing, which she called sensory integrative dysfunction, could lead to a vast array of problems, such as inattention and poor self-regulation, over- or under-sensitivity to sensory input, disturbances in activity level, floppy muscle tone and lack of motor coordination, emotional reactivity, speech and language problems and oppositional behavior.
Ayres developed a battery of tests (the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests or SIPT) to assess the fundamental components of sensory integration: touch reception, balance, processing of input from the muscles and joints, form and space perception, visuomotor coordination, bilateral integration, sequencing and motor planning. Results from the SIPT, which was recently standardized on a large sample of American children, provide a profile of a child's strengths and weaknesses and can be used to set specific treatment goals.
The SI framework suggests an explanation for many of the symptoms associated with an assortment of behavioral, emotional and academic conditions, including specific learning disabilities, Developmental Coordination Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It offers promise for understanding difficult children without a specific diagnosis, like Evan and Jack.
SI treatment is based on the concept of neuroplasticity, the nervous system's capacity to modify its structure and function in response to environmental demands. There is increasing scientific evidence of the brain's capacity for reorganization throughout the life span. SI therapists believe that purposeful activities that stimulate sensory receptors in the inner ear, skin, muscles and joints enhance the nervous system's ability to process and integrate sensory information, which in turn make higher levels of functional behavior possible.