Sensory Integration Information

The Tactile system

This refers to our sense of touch. These receptors are located throughout the skin and provide information about the environment. It includes our ability to protect (alerts to danger) and discriminate (provides information abut the qualities of something). Some children are hyper-responsive to touch stimulation while others may be hypo-responsive or some children can be a little bit of both. Difficulty in this system may also impact upon feeding skills.

Some behaviors that indicate a possible need for tactile activities:
Indicators of tactile hyper-sensitivity:

o Withdrawal from tactile stimuli (i.e. won't play with paint, glue, etc.)
o Behavioral over-reactions prior to or after tactile experience (i.e. aggressive after being bumped into in circle time or gym)
o Gagging/ vomiting with tactile play
o Dislike hair-washing/ cutting and bathing
o Difficulty playing/working in close proximity of others or being in a crowd
o Difficulty tolerating hugs, kisses
o Prefers certain clothing textures and styles (i.e. long versus short sleeves, no tags)
o Prefers certain food textures an temperatures
o Can be self-injurious
Indicators of tactile hypo-sensitivity:
o Frequently touching things/putting non-food objects into mouth
o Difficulty transitioning away from tactile activities
o Seeks out deep pressure and bumps into others
o Can be self-injurious


Tactile Activities:

o Wilbarger Protocol (pressure brushing)
o Massage strokes
o Playing with various textures including funny foam, shaving cream, pudding,
whipped cream paints, water, sand rice, noodles, play-doh, etc. Draw simple lines, pictures, letters and numbers in these substances.
o Have objects of different textures available to work on discrimination skills (i.e. rough/smooth, hard/soft). See if child can tell you by only using their sense of touch.
o Play "what's in the bag?" Ask child to describe an object being felt without looking at it. Use simple, familiar to more complex (i.e. round, wet, cold then more complex, long smooth object)
o Hide familiar objects in rice/bean/macaroni bins and have child identify by touch only. If child is not verbal, have them match objects/shapes.
o Draw letters on the child's back and have them reproduce it on paper or tactile.

The Proprioceptive System

This system is made up of receptors in the muscles and joints in the body. It provides information to the brain about body position and movement without using the vision system. This information is created by the contracting and stretching of muscles as well as the pulling and compression of joints between bones. Proprioceptive input, a name for heavy work or deep pressure to the muscles and joints can be both claming and alerting to the nervous system. Un like other sensory input, it is rarely overloading. It also improves body image, muscle tone and strength.

Some behaviors that indicate the possible need for proprioceptive (heavy work) activities:

o Decreased body awareness/clumsy/accident prone
o Body tensing or jaw/teeth clenching
o Banging hands on table
o Getting self into small spaces-i.e. under desks
o Stomping, marching or heavy steps
o Hugging, banging into or pressing against people or objects
o Touching wall while walking don hall
o Plays rough
o Over-exaggerated movements-i.e. shoving chair under desk
o Exerts too much or not enough pressure-i.e. breaking writing utensils, pressing too hard or too light when writing
o Erratic arousal level
o Decreased attention to task
o Self-injurious

Proprioception Activities:

o "Heavy work" and "Push/Pull" activities (activity that makes muscles work against resistance)-tug of war, pushing a heavy shopping cart, pulling a bag of leaves/garbage, etc., wearing a backpack (with books, etc.), carrying a full laundry basket (Don't push/pull or wear something too heavy, though)
o Wall and/or chair push-ups
o Fidget box filled with squeeze toys, bubble wrap popping
o Joint compressions
o Weight bearing activities-wheelbarrow walking, crab walks
o Deep pressure input-wrapping up in a blanket, "Hot dog", "sandwich", or "pizza" game, sit on bean bag chairs, giving/getting hugs, jumping on trampoline, bouncing on ball
o Weighted equipment-wearing a weighted vest, using a weighted "snake" for lap or shoulders, use weighted blanket, use weighted hand patch or cuff
o Chewing and Crunching-food or approved non-food items



This is the ability to take in information through the eyes and produce an image. Vision is the ability to get meaning from eyesight.


Ocular Motor Skills

Ocular control is the smooth and coordinated movement of the eyes to attend and follow objects and people in the environment. Controlled eye movements are needed for finding and tracking a moving object, scanning the environment, sustaining eye contact on a fixed object or person, shifting your gaze from one thing to another and eye hand/ eye foot coordination skills.


Visual stimulation

Although many children may not have any vision or ocular motor limitations, they may get visually over-stimulated by everyday environmental stimuli. They may be easily distracted by bright lights or a busy environment (i.e. wall decorations) and not be able to offer eye contact or visually attend.

Some behaviors that indicate a possible need for vision activities:

o Limited eye contact
o Frequent blinking/squeezing both or one eye together
o Squinting eyes
o Covering eyes
o Visually distracted by environmental stimuli
o Excessive interest in visually stimulation objects-creates visual stimulation-i.e. spinning objects
o Looks intensely at objects, can't focus on objects or stares into space
o Difficulty accommodating to bright lights, sun or colors
o Afraid to be in a dark room or turns lights off
o Loses place when reading
o Skipping lines/ words when reading
o May pay attention to detail and miss the whole picture
o Difficulty finding objects in a cluttered area
o Difficulty with figure ground skills (can't find a sticker of a colorform board)
o Hesitation going up or down steps

Vision Activities

o If visually over-stimulated-wear sunglasses or a baseball cap (inside environment is okay), use different color copy paper (instead of black on white) for contrast, turn lights off and use natural light, use lamps with colored bulbs instead of overhead lights
o Spear raisins, mini-marshmallows, etc. with a toothpick sequentially left to right, top to bottom or form letters, numbers and shapes out of them.
o String Cheerios, beads or buttons.
o Alphabet search: Find the letters of the alphabet (A-Z) in order, on a page from a magazine or book
o Flashlight tag: Using two flashlights, shine one light and have the child put his light on top
o Workbooks (hidden pictures, mazes, find a word)
o Balloon volley ball and target games



This is our sense of hearing. The auditory system sits together with the vestibular system inside the ear. Sound enters from the outer ear (pinna) and passes through the ear canal and into the middle and inner ear where high and low frequency sounds are perceived. An example of a higher toned sound is a person's voice. These sounds tend to carry a lot of information. A lower toned sound tends to be deeper and not carry as much information. Rhythm; however, is picked up through lower frequency sound and is important for developing fine and gross motor skills.
Auditory processing is the perception of and ability to understand what is heard in the environment. You need to be able to discriminate between sounds, associate and decode sounds and remember what is heard. When these things do not occur, a child may appear inattentive or unable to "listen". There is a difference between listening and hearing. Listening is active and one must want to do it. Hearing is the passive reception of sound.

Some behaviors that indicated a possible need for auditory activities:

o Adverse reactions to everyday environmental sounds
o Speaking too softly or loudly
o Poor "listening" skills or appears not to hear
o Easily distracted by extraneous background sound/noises
o Difficulty discriminating between sounds
o Focus on background/ less important information
o Hums or sings to self
o Covers ears
o Becomes over-stimulated in loud, crowded places


Auditory activities:

o Listening to music-fast music can be more stimulating but can add more rhythm (i.e. techno music), classical music is usually more calming, earth/nature sounds (including drums) can be more grounding and organizing.
o Dancing
o Rhythm games-Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes song, The Wheels on the bus song, Miss Mary Mack, etc.
o Play with instruments
o Sound Track games or Farm Families game
o Headphones to black sound
o Samonas Sound Therapy or Auditory Integration Training


The Vestibular System


Vestibular processing refers to the information that is provided by the receptors within the inner ear. These receptors are stimulated by movement of the head and input from other senses. This input tells where we are in relation to gravity, whether we are still or moving, how fast we are going, and in which direction. It also influences the development of balance, equilibrium, postural control and muscle tone. Vestibular input also plays an important role in helping to maintain a clam, alert state and deepening the level of arousal in the central nervous system balanced. An under-reactive vestibular system can contribute to distractibility and hyper activity due to the lack of its modulating influence. Depending upon the situation, vestibular stimulation can either calm or stimulate and facilitate a more organized activity level. Children can be hyper and/or hypo-responsive to this type of input.

Vestibular input is very powerful and activities should be completed after consultation with your occupational therapist.

Some behaviors that indicate the possible need for vestibular (movement) activities:

o Craves or avoids movement
o Creates self movement-i.e. rocking, moving or re-positioning in chair
o Daredevil behaviors
o Putting head in upside down position or rapid head turning/shaking
o Dislikes upside down play
o Spinning self or objects
o Poor or decreased balance skills
o Fearful when feet leave the ground
o Up and down out of seat frequently or falling off of chair
o In constant motion
o Running or moving about quickly
o Toe walking
o Fear of going up/down stairs
o Becomes over-excited watching other children moving
o Decreased attention to task
o Erratic arousal level


Vestibular Activities:

o Swings-linear, rotary (be careful! Do with OT supervision)
o Playground equipment- slide, see-saw, climbing jungle gym
o Rocking chair, rocking curls (modified sit-ups)
o Sit-n-spin (go around both ways equal times)
o Running, skipping, galloping, jumping, hopping
o Rough housing, upside down play, "see-saw", "row, row, row your boat",
ß somersaults, log rolling
o Obstacle courses including body movements and body concepts
o Hippity-Hop ball-follow path; knock over objects
o Mini trampoline-jog, jump-1 foot, feet apart, together, catch a ball
o Scooterboard-propel self of stomach (can use hula hoop or rope to pull); use feet
ß while sitting up to move; ride down a ramp; knock down boxes or objects
o Gymnastic (big) ball-sit or lay on and bounce, reaching up for objects; use as a chair (if balance is good) or use Movin' Sit cushion on seat.

Definition of Visual/Spatial Intelligence

The ability to create internal mental pictures. Visual/spatial intelligence deals with such things as the visual arts, navigation, map-making, and architecture.
People highly developed in this intelligence are good at creating pictures in their mind. Whether it be by illustrating those images (as in the case of an artist) or mentally conceptualizing the images (as in the case of an interior designer) such people demonstrate the intellectual capacity of seeing beyond two-dimensional limitations. Such people may also demonstrate the intellectual capacity involved in other creative and artistic things, using colors, reading maps, and probably have a good imagination. They probably like to draw, paint, create sculptures, and imagine things.

There are many websites on Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Here is one:

Spatial Intelligence


The following definition is an abbreviation and adaptation by J. Keith Rogers and based upon his study of Howard Gardner's theory:
Spatial intelligence (or visual-spatial) is the capacity to perceive the world accurately, and to be able to recreate one's visual experience. It entails a number of loosely related capacities: the ability to recognize instances of the same element; the ability to recognize transformations of one element in another; the capacity to conjure up mental imagery and then to transform that imagery; the ability to produce a graphic likeness of spatial information; and the like. A person with a good sense of direction or the ability to move and operate well in the world would indicate spatial intelligence.

People such as sailors, engineers, surgeons, sculptors, painters, cartographers, and architects may exhibit developed spatial intelligence.