Sensory integration describes how our brains organize sensory input that we get from our 7 senses whether from inside or outside of our bodies:
When our brains properly receive, process and respond to the information, everything’s great! That person will easily learn new things. A child or even a grown up whose brain has a problem in any of the three areas (receiving, processing or responding) to the stimuli will probably have some sensory integration problems. Have you seen a child walking on their toes, refuses to be hugged or runs into the walls and starts laughing afterwards? If so, you have seen a child with proprioceptive difficulties. Good news is, you can work on these things. Even if you don’t “fix” the issue 100%, you can learn how to function productively in every day situations with this issue. Frankly, most of us learned to compensate our sensory difficulties in one way or the other. Are there any of you who don’t like to touch a wet sponge? Any of you who can’t be in a room with a strong smell? Well, I used to be that person. When I celebrated my first Diwali holiday (Hindu holiday of Light) with my husband back in college, I became nauseous from the smells of candles, food, incense sticks and such. I had to leave the room for a minute. Slowly, as I got used to these fragrances and their intensities, I became adjusted in a way. Nowadays, I even use the incense sticks myself and enjoy them quite a lot.
But we are grown ups who have a cognitive ability to regulate ourselves even in an environment that does not suit us. I did not throw a fit during the holidays, I just politely went out to breathe in some fresh air and came back inside. But, most of our kids don’t have that kind of a self control. So, you will see a very smart child getting not so great grades in school or a very calm child at home getting teacher’s notes saying he or she is running around in school. So, how come these kids are so different at home and in school. Under the premises that your child is treated well in school, there is a possibility your child has some mild sensory issues that they can successfully regulate at home, in a familiar surrounding, and have difficulties doing the same in an environment that is very dynamic, fast, colorful, loud or requires a lot attention and for a long time. A child with proprioceptive dysregulation will probably not be able to sit peacefully on a wooden chair for hours. They will become restless, appear as if they are not paying attention in class, they might start talking to their friends in the middle of a class etc. They might even get labeled as hyperactive, spoiled, careless, lazy, stupid and so on. Which is in most cases incorrect! There is a lot of things we can do with kids like that. In this example, intelligence of these kids is not in question – it is their sensory integration disorder that is making the learning process (learning in school, new skills etc) difficult.
There is some more information in Senses page.