We started this blog for two reasons, one to chronicle this journey that we're on, and two to help other's who may find themselves on the same road with the wrong map like we did. This is all well and good, but so far we've forgotten one important detail. We haven't actually explained what Sensory Integration Disorder is.
So I'm going to try to tackle that tonight. And I will put links to any pages I use for resources so that anyone looking can explore for themselves.
Sensory Integration Disorder is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in, processing, and responding to sensory information about the environment and from within the own body.
So that's the definition, but what does it actually mean for you?
We use our senses to perceive the world around us. Back in Elementary school we all learned about our five senses; taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Well we actually don't have five senses, we have eight.
Visual - interpreting the surrounding environment by sight
Auditory - interpreting sounds, ability to focus on sounds and block others out
Tactile - sense of feeling, how your clothes feel, knowing there's something on your face, etc
Olfactory - identifying what things smell like in your environment
Gustatory - sense of taste, recognizing flavor, intensity, and texture
Vestibular - your sense of balance, where your body is positioned in space
Proprioception - the sense of the relative position of your body (how we can touch our nose with our eyes closed) and the strength we use in movement.
Interoceoption - an internal sense, telling you if you're hungry, feel sick, having to use the restroom
This is how we go about our daily lives, all these senses working together often without our even noticing. We don't realize that our body knows our link to gravity, unless we use an elevator and feel that small "flip". We don't notice our vestibular sense until it gets out of whack for some reason and we have that unpleasant feeling of vertigo.
We normally experience some form of sensory interruption at points in our life. Not long lasting, not dangerous.
For our kids, this isn't a quick interruption. This is their life.
An apt description can be found in the book "The Challenging Child" By Stanley Greenspan.
"Imagine driving a car that isn't working well. When you step on the gas the car sometimes lurches forward and sometimes doesn't respond. When you blow the horn it sounds blaring. The brakes sometimes slow the car, but not always. The blinkers work occasionally, the steering is erratic, and the speedometer is inaccurate. You are engaged in a constant struggle to keep the car on the road, and it is difficult to concentrate on anything else."
Can you begin to imagine living like that? Of course our kids are going to have trouble focusing. Of course they're going to seem like they are out of control behaviorally.
Another of my favorite explanations can be found here. Please check out this site as it has a lot of good information, but I'll give you the gist.
You could only sit here for 15 minutes and then you had to take a run around the building or do 20 jumping jacks so you could sit for another 10 minutes before your muscles felt like they were going to jump out of your skin.
This is just everyday life for a child with Sensory Integration Disorder. And when I learned about it, it was like an epiphany. A huge "That explains SO much" moment. This was important, because until then I just didn't understand my son's behavior. I couldn't understand why he could not sit still. Why he was constantly knocking things over, or bumping into people. Why he yelled or whispered inappropriately all the time.