Sensory Integration:
Definitions, symptoms and intervention


Interdisciplinary Center for Psychological and Therapeutic Support «Pronoisi»

The theory of sensory integration

With the term “sensory integration” we refer to the neurobiological process, which organizes the senses of the body and the environment and enables us to use our bodies effectively in our environment (Ayres, 1972). According to this theory, in order to fully develop a person’s motor and cognitive skills, the human brain must receive feedback from and to all senses. Any difficulty in performing the aforementioned process is referred to as sensory integration dysfunction, which affects a person both in his learning, attention, and behavior.

“Sensory processing disorders are divided into three categories”


  1. Sensory tuning disorder
  2. Sensory diversity disorder
  3. Sensory movement disorder

 Sensations and sensory systems in Sensory Integration

There are three categories of sensation that provide important information about one’s self and one’s environment. Specifically,

1) outer receptiveness, which detects information outside the body, through the visual and hearing systems (visual and auditory systems respectively), touch (tactile systems), but also information that enters the body through the systems of taste and smell (taste and smell),

2) Self receiveness, which detects information through
movement of muscles and joints regarding gravity, movement and position in space; and

3) inner receiveness, which detects information about what is going on in the body (perception of basic biological needs such as bladder and anus control, hunger, heart and respiratory rhythm, pain and
body temperature).

Sensory systems are responsible for the detection, reception and processing of sensory information.


The tactile system, through receptors on the skin, is responsible for the sensation of touch, body parts, pain, itching, temperature.

The proprietary system, through the receptors located in the muscles and tendons, is responsible for the movement and posture of the body.

The vestibular system, through the receptors in the inner ear, is responsible for the balance, posture control and position of the individual in the space.

The visual system, through the receptors in the eyes, is responsible for the sense of sight.

The acoustic system, through the ear receptors, is responsible for the sense of hearing.


Sensory processing malfunctions

A child with sensory dysfunction is likely to encounter many difficulties in their daily lives, both in their learning process as in their behavior also, in their socialization or in school performance. It is important to note that one child with IDD (sensory processing or integration dysfunction) presents a different state than another child with the same disorder. This is why intervention considers the child as an individual whole, with its own unique abilities and difficulties. Sensory processing disorders are divided into three categories:

Sensory integration disturbances

The following are the categories of sensory integration disturbances:

  • A. Sensory over-sensitivity or otherwise sensory defense,
  • B. Sensory hyper-sensitivity
  • C. Sensory search.
  1. A child with sensory hypersensitivity receives a feeling of greater intensity than what is given to him. This causes an increased reaction to a stimulus that is harmfull.
    A child with sensory irritability, on the other hand, receives a feeling less intense than is given to him. This causes a lack of response to the stimulus.
    A child with sensory integration search has the need to constantly seek stimulation. This puts the child on a constant alert without being able to calm down and organize in his daily routine.

Sensory discrimination Disorders

Sensory discrimination Disorders refer to the difficulties a child faces in identifying and distinguishing the stimulus to which he or she is exposed (touch, pressure, sound, image).

kinetic problems from Sensory disorder

Sensory disorder sometimes refers to difficulties the child has with regard to his or her body posture, but also to difficulties for example, (somatic dyspnea or bilateral coordination and movement disorder).

Frequent clinical symptoms, manifestations, and diagnostic categories of children with sensory integration disorder

Sensory processing malfunctions

  • Non-tolerance to textures and touches.
  • Food selectivity.
    Closing ears to sounds, not always very loud ex. horn, vacuum cleaner etc.
  • Disturbed by smells and flavors.
    Difficulty in daily living activities (toilet, clothing, bath, nail cutting).
  • Avoiding to be barefoot.
  • Frequent touching of people and objects.
  • Hyperactivity
  • Avoiding crowded places.
  • Poor mobility skills.
  • Annoyance at hugs, kisses, tickling.
  • Intense chewing of objects.

Modes of manifestation of sensory processing / integration dysfunction

  • Difficulties to move from one situation to another.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Hyperactivity and distraction.
  • Low self esteem.
  • Emotional difficulties.
  • Difficulty in social interaction.
  • Learning difficulties.
  • Kinetic immaturity.
  • Severe difficulties in feeding.
  • Speech delay.
  • Lack of motivation.

Diagnostic categories showing sensory processing / integration dysfunction

  • Autistic spectrum disorders.
  • Dention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
  • Learning difficulties.
  • Social and emotional difficulties.
  • Brain paralysis.
  • High-risk babies.
  • Mental retardation.
  • Down Syndrome.
  • Environmental lag.
  • Genetic syndromes.
  • Prematureness.
  • No accompanying diagnosis / disorder.

The intervention of sensory integration

The main objective of the intervention of sensory integration is the appropriate and controlled multi-sensory input through purposeful and meaningful activities for the child. It is important that every therapist who applies sensory integration knows that he is not acting on the child but with the child. This is why the method uses games to arouse interest and seek active involvement in the intervention. Within the therapeutic area, the child feels self-directed and it is self-directed. The therapist plays the role of the helper, the partner, the teammate, not the leader and the teacher.

In order to perform the sensory integration intervention, the therapist first evaluates the child and the environments in which they interact. The evaluation includes both his observation in the field of therapy as well as an interview from his family environment to record a sensory profile. Next, set the operational goals that the therapist will rely on to organize and design the therapeutic plan to give appropriate sensory opportunities depending on the sensory needs of each child. After designing the treatment plan, the intervention begins immediately.



It is very important for the children to feel a personal sense of competence on which to build with their abilities, and to develop further skills in other areas because these abilities will help  in the environments in which they interact, thereby enhancing their way of living and the quality of their life.