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What is Sensory Integration Dysfunction or Disorder?

Updated on February 11, 2011

Sensory Integration Dysfunction is a problem that is becoming more and more common. However; it is often never heard of and/or misunderstood. According to the book The Out-Of-Sync Child - "Sensory Integration Dysfunction is the inability to process information received through the senses." It is sometimes called Sensory Integration Disorder or SI Dysfunction.

Basically the central nervous system cannot process the information it receives to allow a person to function correctly. Unfortunately to someone who does not understand this problem it will appear that a child is choosing not to do what is right, when in reality they can't do what is right because their brain is unorganized and not processing information correctly.

There are many different areas in which a child or person can have a sensory problem. These include touch, movement, body position, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. A person can have a problem in one area or multiple areas. On top of that there are different ways a person can respond to sensory stimulations. Sensory problems can result in a child being hypersensitive, hyposensitive or a combination of the two.

A hypersensitive result of inefficient sensory processing is a person's brain registering sensations too intensely. For example the feel of wearing a shirt might come across as deep pressure against the body. For a person who does not have sensory problems the body typically ignores the feel of clothing on the skin. A child may feel as though he will fall over if he picks up one foot or is accidentally bumped. These feelings don't happen in a brain that can process sensory information correctly.

A hyposensitive result of inefficient sensory processing is a person's brain not registering sensations intensly enough. Basically the brain is not getting enough input. A child who is hyposensitive will be constantly seeking more stimulation. He will need to touch everything and often need to crash into objects in order to get the input he needs. A child like this might also have a very high tolerance for pain.

A child that has a combination of hyposensitive responses and hypersensitive responses could be oversensitive in some ways but undersensitive in other ways. These responses may also vary based on the time of day and location. This can be very confusing to the child and to those trying to take care of the child.

In fact many people have sensory issues; however it is only when these issues get in the way of regular life that it becomes a problem. There are several other problems that have symptoms similar to Sensory Integration Dysfunction. These include ADD, ADHD and learning disabilities. It can be very hard to correctly diagnose children with sensory problems, because the symptoms are so similar.

There are other medical problems that include sensory integration problems as a symptom. Medical problems that fall along the Autism spectrum usually include sensory integration problems as symptoms of a larger diagnosis. The frequency of sensory problems can make it difficult to determine what the root of the problem is.

So how can you tell if you or your child has Sensory Integration Dysfunction? Here are some questions asked by Carol Stock Kranowitz, author of The Out-Of-Sync Child. Is there an oversensitivity or undersensitivity to touch, taste, smell, sound or sight? Is there an oversensitivity or undersensitivity to movement sensations? Does the child have an unusually high or low activity level? Are there problems with motor coordination?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then it is certainly worth looking into further. In order to know for sure a child needs to be evaluated by an Occupational Therapist. If you want to get a better idea of whether this is a problem that needs further evaluation I highly recommend the book The Out-Of-Sync Child. This book has all the information you need and has great ideas for dealing with Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

Dealing with a child that has Sensory Integration Dysfunction can be difficult, confusing and frustrating. Figuring out the problem and getting the right treatment is key to making the problem managable for everyone involved. This problem can be dealt with and a person can be taught ways to deal with the issues so that she can make sure her brain gets the right stimulations so that she can process sensations correctly. If you are dealing with this, please don't be discouraged - this problem can be overcome.


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    • profile image

      Cora Tye 7 years ago

      My grandson has SID, he's 17 1/2 years old. He has good days and bad days. He lives in Arizona and he would very much like to talk to another adult who has SID. Can anyone help me for my grandson? I'm his Grandmother and I love him very much. If anyone can help,e-mail me at I think you all

    • kerryv profile image

      kerryv 9 years ago from New York, NY

      Thank you bringing Sensory Integration Dysfunction to my attention. I had not heard of it prior to reading your hub. You have provided some great information.

    • profile image

      kristen 9 years ago

      Jennifer, they do believe that early intervention is key. But, my DS wasn't diagnosed until he was 8 (and not for lack of us pushing the docs, either). I discovered the SID myself by reading that very book you brought up, then insisted on testing. Once we recognise the issues it is so much easier for all involved!

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 9 years ago

      Kristen, we just found out our son has Aspergers. I have spent much time doing therapy at home with our son. When he was 1 and 2 we had therapy come to the house and I paid close attention. The earlier a child can get help the better.

    • profile image

      kristen 9 years ago

      My son has this with his Asperger's Syndrome. Yes, in his particular instance we seem to be notice it is decreasing in severity. It was very distressing when he was younger. Kat07 states they should be working with a therapist, and in an ideal world yes they should. But more often than not these kids' parents are told they will outgrow it, or told there is no problem at all that the child just has behavior issues. Also, many medical insurances do not pay for OT. At $75 a session, twice a week, not all can afford this.

      I was actually put in both predicaments. So, I devoured info on the disorder and on what OT was needed. For the most part, we succeeded beautifully.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Some learn to overcome it if it is mild..I have this myself and it causes some issues but usually I can deal with it.

      On the other hand if you have it, you end up being an awesome foodie. :)

    • Kat07 profile image

      Kat07 9 years ago from Tampa

      Nice hub - kids with sensory integration (SI) difficulties should be working with a therapist!  : )