Sensory Pyramid

SENSORY INTEGRATION: Often at Connections Pediatric Therapy, the occupational therapy team is asked by parents, “What is sensory integration,” and “How does it impact my child?”

Learning for children with Sensory Integration Disorder happens in a
bottom up process. Our therapists work on the bottom layers (tactile, vestibular, proprioception, smell, vision, hearing, and taste) of the pyramid
first as these areas inform or support the higher levels of learning.

BODY ON BODY (Sensory System)
The Sensory Systems of Tactile (Touch), Vestibular (Movement) and Proprioception (deep pressure input informing us where our body is in space) are the cornerstones supporting all learning. These supporting steps, together with the other sensations (taste, vision, hearing and smell) are the Body-on-Body lower steps. Think of a child crawling. He feels the texture of the floor on his hands (tactile), as he crawls (vestibular/movement) and feels the weight of the body through his arms (proprioception). While still crawling he looks ahead for obstacles (vision), listens when his mom calls his name (auditory/ hearing )
and likely sucks his pacifier to keep him calm and focused (gustatory/taste).
This simple activity of crawling then helps the child with postural control, which gives him the ability to sit up independently, or stay on a swing as it moves. It also gives him information about where his body is in relation to other aspects of his body (body scheme) and helps to develop the two sides of the body and two lobes of the brain. This child needs to know and feel his arms and legs before he can learn to motor plan movement of his body around an object.

BODY ON OBJECT (Sensory Motor Development)
The Next stage; Sensory Motor Learning is the ability to learn to manipulate objects with your hands, feet and mouth. This is where a child begins to learn that they are separate from the world and begins to increase their own motivation to investigate. In this stage, the child now is able to move his body toward an object (postural adjustment), to reach (or bat towards), grasp and place hands on an object and placing the object into a container, or using the object to bang on something else like a drum. He uses the feet to kick a ball, or brings a spoon to his mouth.

OBJECT ON OBJECT (Perceptual Motor Development)
This stage is using higher level thinking (visual spatial skills, attention) to grasp an object with one hand and manipulate another object skillfully with the other hand placing two objects together to: string beads, stack blocks and begin making strokes on paper. This is the stage where attention can be lengthened and sustained.

Academics, Daily Living Skills and Behaviors are supported by all the lower steps. This is the stage where a child is then able to do complex activities such as: button, zip, pour water into a container, complete puzzles, play games with other children and follow multiple step verbal or written directions.

Our therapists usually begin each session taking the children into the Therapy Gym to work on the lower level steps of movement, position in space and body awareness. In the gym we work on strengthening muscles, which also helps to calm the sensory system through heavy work of: pushing, pulling, climbing, lifting and jumping. Swings and other moving equipment help the kids to gain attention, balance and position in space.

We then usually transition to the sensory motor portion of a task adding greater complexity to a task requiring the child to use a new motor plan, begin using both arms to reach toward and manipulate larger items before finally transitioning to the higher level tasks or goals of writing, dressing, self feeding, communication, reading or ball skills.

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