How to approach sensory integration?
Meet Emilia Adamczyk, Midwife, sensory integration therapist, Buteyko instructor and baby sleep consultant. Emilia is the author of numerous parenting and scientific articles on breastfeeding, infant care and development. She shares with us her experience and answers all the question you might have about sensory integration.
Hi Emily, thanks for joining us. Could you tell us about yourself?
Sure, my name is Emily and I have been interested in midwifery since I was 6 years old. I have been dedicated to working in this field ever since. I have gone an unconventional route, working in areas not typically associated with midwifery, such as child sleep, development, infant nutrition, and so on. I believe it is important to take a holistic approach and collaborate with other medical specialists to ensure the best care for my patients. I also help mothers and fathers prepare for childbirth, and the relationship usually ends when the child reaches two years old. An another area where I devote a lot of my time is sensory integration which allows me to reconnect with my past patients and is a very rewarding experience.
What is sensory integration?
I will start with how sensory integration is perceived. Sensory integration is often perceived as a marketing ploy to sell various toys and classes for children. In reality, it involves working on the baby's innate reflexes and helping them to effectively process information from all their senses and correctly interpret body position in space.
Is there an age to address it?
To prevent sensory disorders from arising, I introduce prophylactic measures as early as 6 months. Sensory integration is relevant until age 9, when the reflexes and proprioceptive system can still be worked on. After this point, any unaddressed areas are likely to become entrenched and develop into other disorders.
Can parents help with preventing sensory disorders?
In practice, parents can support their child's development by providing activities that stimulate their senses and challenge their balance. This can include activities like rocking in a cradle, using swings, and riding carousels.
How do you identify sensory integration disorders?
Identifying sensory integration can be difficult, as parents may not be aware of the issue until their child's teacher at the nursery school points out that he or she is not interacting with the group or is not enthusiastic about certain tasks. If a child does not show interest in usual activities, do not like traveling by car, being hugged, put on a hat, cream on the face or being rocked and swaddled, being in crowded places or being alone it may be an indication of a feeling disorder. A child with sensory integration issues may try to stimulate itself by sitting on stairs and sliding down or deliberately running into large, hard objects to add sensations. That's a point where parents might want to consult a therapist for a diagnosis. They should ask for a therapist to come over to observe the child during spontaneous play, at home which is the best setting.
How do you conduct sensory integration therapy?
Sensory integration therapy is usually conducted by a therapist in a specially designed room, and parents typically attend twice a week for an hour each time. This induces a lot of fatigue on both parents and children. But here again I believe that more support should be offered to children through activities in their everyday lives that be done directly at home.
What activities do you recommend?
I like working with kids around the age of 2 because this is when a child develop a lot of motor planning skills and there is a wide range of activities we can choose from. Examples of stimulating activities that can be beneficial include climbing classes, martial arts, basic judo techniques, rolling, rocking, swinging, somersaulting, rope pulling and pillow fighting. It is important to remember however that each child has their own sensory profile with distinct activity preferences. Just like in Winnie the Pooh, you have children with a Tigger, or Piglet profile. A child with a Piglet profile may benefit from repetitive, routine activities in calm places. A Tigger child may enjoy more stimulating activities, such as climbing or jumping. Even when they are deeply tired, they strive for even more. It is important to remember that it's not because a stimulation is healthy that it's a must do for every children. Parents need to offer stimulation in accord with their child's sensory profile. In fact, this sensory profile goes with us throughout life, the sooner we realize it, the easier we understand ourselves.