Speech at ITS by Jennie Ni

Occupational Therapy—The Sensory Integration Approach

Sensory integration is the process by which people register, modulate, and discriminate sensations received through the sensory systems to produce purposeful, adaptive behaviors in response to the environment (Ayres, 1976/2005). The sensory systems we depend on for input include vision, auditory, gustatory (taste), olfactory (smell), tactile (touch), proprioceptive (joint position sense), vestibular (balance and movement), and interoception (internal awareness of physical and emotional cues). Effective integration of these sensations enables development of the skills needed to successfully participate in the variety of occupational roles we value, such as care of self and others, engagement with people and objects, and participation in social contexts. The therapeutic approach of sensory integration was originally developed by A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR, and is formally know as Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI; Ayres, 1989). ASI® includes the theory of sensory integration, assessment methods to measure sensory integration, and a core set of essential intervention constructs that can be utilized to intervene with clients who have difficulty processing sensory information. 

Irvine Therapy Services opened its doors in 1980 because of the need in the local community for a pediatric occupational therapy practice that properly utilized sensory integration techniques. We have been helping children throughout Orange County ever since. Our facility boasts over 4200 square feet of clinic space with a plethora of activities to address sensory needs!


Why should we be interested in the developmental milestones of a child?

Developmental Milestones

Jean Ayres in her classic book, ‘SI and the Child’ shares that in the first seven years of a child’s life, the child learns to sense his body and the environment of the world around him or her and learns to rise up and move effectively and efficiently in that world. As the child becomes competent in each stage, the accomplishments of each of these competencies are captured in the form of developmental milestones. These developmental milestones include crawling, sitting up and walking as the major milestones of infancy, but also include riding a bicycle, learning to read, write, play and enjoy social interactions with friends and family as one grows older. In observing a child’s ability to meet developmental milestones, a parent or therapist can understand whether or not the brain is able to effectively integrate sensations from the environment and respond to those sensations effectively. In other words, developmental milestones serve as a window into the brain and they tell us how well the brain is integrating sensory information and organizing that information to create accurate perceptions which eventually lead to learning and mastery of skills for life.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults who were not treated in childhood. It has also been referred to under different names such as sensory integration disorder or dysfunction of sensory integration. Children with SPD misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound, and movement. Some feel bombarded by sensory information; others seek out intense sensory experiences or have other problems. This can lead to behavioral problems, difficulties with coordination, and other issues. Symptoms of SPD, like those of most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of severity.

What is Arousal?

Arousal can be considered a state of the nervous system describing how alert one feels. In order to attend, concentrate, and perform tasks in a manner suitable to the situational demands, one’s nervous system must be in an optimal state of arousal for that particular task. Self-regulation is the ability to attain, maintain, and change arousal appropriately for a task or situation. Most individuals self-regulate their arousal levels throughout the day, with no conscious thought or effort.

Our team of occupational therapists can help kids and their families with:

Sensory processing

Gross, fine, and visual motor skills


Feeding and related issues

Self-care skills (ex. dressing, grooming, hygiene, etc.)

Social participation




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