5 reasons sensory integration should be your lifestlye

At my workplace, we suggest parents to bring their kids to therapy twice a week. We do an individual evaluation so the frequency is not the same for all the kids, but in most cases it turns out to be twice a week. The sensory room is big, has many things and it can be a lot for certain kids to handle. But that’s therapy. And it’s great. But if you ask me, sensory integration should be looked at as lifestyle. No matter if your child is “healthy” (of a typical development), or has some developmental difficulties. Two hours a week is simply not enough. Just knowing a thing or two about what it is and how kids respond to the stimuli can give you a lot of insight into why kids do things the way they do. For instance, why do kids walk on the arm rests and frames of your living room couch, why they slide down 100 times and still want more, why they can spin around in the park for 5 minutes and you want to puke just by looking at them?

  1. If parents knew just a little bit about the SI, it would not be such a mystery and I am sure parenting would be even a bigger joy. It is to me, anyway.
  2. I love seeing my little boy exploring his body. I don’t get all first-time-nervous-mom on him, but I am a relaxed parent as I understand what my baby is going through.
  3. SI is great for your child but is also good for you. Your brain is not as easy to “change” as the child’s, but is not impossible. When I started working in the sensory room I would get nauseas within three to four rounds on the swing and now I can do at least 10. I also couldn’t write texts or read messages on my phone while in the moving bus, and now I have no issues with that whatsoever.
  4. Other than that, as a parent you get more creative because you need to find ways to offer your child the stimuli they need in different ways: e.g. Proprioceptive stimulus can be acquired by jumping, rolling, pressing, bouncing off of something such as a mat.

    acquired from: kikisclinic.co.uk
  5. Last, but definitely not the least is the fact that one or two hours a week is really not suffice. Can’t emphasize that enough.

And that old excuse “I don’t have so much time to play with my child because I have to ____________ (enter your reason why)” is not applicable any more if you make SI your lifestyle. Because if you live SI, then you do it all the time, becomes a way of living and communicating. But have in mind that even if you apply the SI concepts, you should still be the child’s parent and go for the hour or two of therapy with a professional. Doing it at home does not mean stopping it with the professionals by any means.

And remember, it should be fun! :)

Baby on board – the sea!

I am not very traditional, but the one tradition I am going to turn the world upside down for is going to the seaside in the summer. The air on the island is clean, the flora is amazingly beautiful, colorful and scented, people lead a calmer life here and above it all is – the sea! It is blue and green, so crispy clear and clean, of a perfect temperature for one to refresh him or herself and it just heals me inside out; it charges my batteries.



This year is moreover special as I am bringing my son to this particular place for the first time. I was his age (around 5, 6 months old) when I came to this house for the first time. So, before I get all sentimental let me tell you what I am doing with him on an island (where you can barely find a person, let alone an OT or a sensory room) that is sensory friendly. You can do this at a lake, river or any other place with water suitable for dipping. I mostly use water as my medium and I try to reveal most of his skin so he gets a lot of the tactile input, too. He was a winter born baby so for the first four months he was in thick socks and three layers of clothing.

First I give V. an oil massage throughout his whole body rubbing his arms, legs, tummy and back. I use coconut oil as per Indian tradition (oh, look at that, another tradition I use), but olive oil, almond oil etc. will do. Then I dip him in the sea (gustative: salty water), or in a small pool (gustative: fresh water). His whole body feels the water (tactile), the water temperature and pressure when he is moving (proprioceptive). There are many visual stimuli such as water splashing, kids playing around, sun shining and reflecting against the water surface etc. There are auditive stimuli such as hearing the water splash, waves hit the beach, boat engines and kids’ screaming, people talking, etc. What is hard in this kind of situation is the ability to concentrate on pleasure the water gives us or on mommy being happy her big boy is swimming while your whole sensory body is super busy staying regulated and let’s face it, alive.


After a swim, there’s nothing better than a nice ice coffee. But how to go about it when your 5 month old does not want to stay peaceful in his stroller. Well, babies loooove proprioceptive games. What’s easier than a push/pull game? Leave the baby in his stroller or put him on the ground if socially acceptable and get a toy or something like a scarf, tissue… Let the baby hold it and while verbally motivating the child, try to pull it out of his hand. Do it in different rhythms.

Other proprioceptive games include you slightly bouncing the baby while holding them tightly, of course. Also, do it in different rhythms and give your baby a second to start anticipating. What can help is you saying:” I am going to bounce you now. Oneeee, twoooo, threeee. There we goooo!!!” Try doing it in an enticing voice.
While your baby’s regular play time (don’t forget the importance of tummy time!) you can include some different kinds of toys. I actually gave my son a toy for dogs. It’s a hedgehog. I love that it’s small enough to fit in his hand and spiky to give some tactile stimulation on his palms.


If you don’t have anything like that, it’s ok. Don’t rush to the store. You can take a walk with your baby and let them touch the branches or even daddy’s hair or beard.

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My son is also teething terribly. His first tooth started coming out when he was barely two months old and now he is a 5 month old baby with 5 white poky dots in his mouth. Needless to say, he is cranky and loud! Keeping a stash of Gengigel and him occupied is a must, so having some good sensory activities in a place where there is really nothing around but nature is a life saver!

What’s the point?

A mother of a boy with autism asked me once right there in the middle of a session: “What’s the point of him swinging so much, I can do that with him in the park?” As I went deeper and deeper into explaining the concepts of sensory integration and why her son needed the vestibular input and how swinging would help him in school, a parallel train of thought started unwinding in my head. Does this lady see the big picture here? There she was, a gorgeous, polished and relatively young mother of this boy. She was always very polite and in the mood for at least a small talk. She rarely stayed in the sensory room but when she had questions, she would stay inside and I would take some time from the session to talk to her and make these concepts a little bit more close to her. So, after many years of explanations from my boss, and a couple of extra years of explanations from me, she kept asking the same question: “Why are you letting him swing so much, I can go to the park and let him swing there for free.” Now, let me just be clear about this, she was definitely not a stingy lady, just the opposite. So, for all those who can’t see the forest for the trees… What’s the point of sensory integration therapy?

Sensory integration has practically one ultimate goal, with small goals in between. The ultimate goal is to help children with any kind of developmental disorder or delay learn. When a child has sensory deficits, they find learning to be very tiring, tough, uninteresting etc. One very important goal that helps us getting to the learning process is the (self)regulation. This is a very tricky one. It is the one that is very individual and rarely you will find a nice and simple equation to get to the regulation and self-regulation point in a child. One day jumping and rolling on the floor will be a bingo, but tomorrow that might cause a tantrum.

Piaget nicely indicated that play is the work of children. They learn a lot better when actively participating as oppose to being told what to do. So, what’s a better way of helping children in their journey to the land of knowledge than the sensory smart play. I follow the child’s interests, observe their sensory appetite and I try using that to help them learn new things; whether a skill, or a word. Some children can only function and learn while getting their stimuli whereas some children are ok with being stimulated first and then afterwards successfully getting the task done. So, in order to get the cognitive tasks done which are on a higher level, we need to sort the basics that our body needs first.


I’ll try making this even more clear. In order to successfully learn, you need to be ok with your sensory self. You don’t need to be perfect and rarely somebody is. But people and children with a more substantial sensory disorder will find learning very tough. However, we can learn to compensate our sensory deficits to be able to function normally with every day challenges (taking a shower, putting clothes on and getting out of the house, getting a haircut, sitting in a class, having coffee in a crowded mall, cooking a spicy dish, reading a book, writing a paper, etc.). So, this is the big picture: settling the sensory basics for the higher cognitive tasks such as learning.

And just an FYI… If you ask me, sensory integration, yes, it can be a therapy, but I would rather if parents and adults used it as a lifestyle. Think, breathe and live (and play!) in a sensory way. Don’t wait for those one or two hours a week for your OT to work with your child and help them regulate. Talk to your child’s therapists, learn from them about your child’s sensory needs and implement them all the time: while the child is eating, when the child needs to brush his teeth and go to bed, on your way to the preschool, etc. I don’t think a parent should necessarily acquire a role of a therapist, actually better if not, if possible. But, hopefully you play with your child anyway, why not making it sensory friendly in your own home or a park. So, to answer the question that a patient’s mother asked: if I let your child swing as much as his brain needs, that will regulate him and thus he will learn better. And yes, I would love it if you would take him to the park to swing more, whenever the boy wants and needs (I only assume his biggest need would be before and after his classes).

Want to talk?

I’ll never forget a moment one of the moms from my work experienced and retold me. Her son has a severe developmental disorder. Parents said that he almost vegetated for the first 4 years: where you put him, that’s where he will stay. Later they started with sensory integration and communication and the boy lit up a little. I was working with him for over a year. Because of his state and inability to communicate practically in any way, parents used to talk about him in front of him. Until that one day! His mom started complaining about him and said how she felt to her friend while he was in the same room. The boy looked at his mom and started crying! Her heart was shattered. She felt so sad she hurt her son like this, but on the other hand she was so happy. She finally had a proof that her son understands language, that he understands and feels the same emotions, that he loves his mom. From then on, not only she stopped speaking about him negatively in front of him, but they doubled all of his therapies.

I was always careful not to speak negatively about a child in front of that child himself, but since I heard that story and felt that mom’s pain she has been causing her son for years, I changed, too. If I feel like I want to change the whole world for this child who has, by the way, grown to be such a happy and smiley boy, I can only imagine how his mom must feel.

Don’t take the risk of hurting your child no matter how sure you are they do not understand you and no matter what condition they had. It’s not worth it. Can you imagine science becoming so advanced that we can read their minds and souls and to find out our children understood every single negative thing and complain we made in front of them, can you imagine what pain we would come across? We all have to went at some point. Finding out your child is not of the health you dreamed of him to be is devastating enough. Not hearing his voice or words “mommy”, “I love you” or getting a hug and a kiss from your child is heart breaking. Grieving and talking about it is very good and healthy for the parents but choose an appropriate time, place and person to do it with. You never know if and when your child will start understanding you. When you finally figure it out, it might be too late.

How to explain your kid’s sensory needs to family and friends?

It is not too complicated to explain sensory integration deficits to those who have never encountered this term before. But still, reactions of some people, especially those from an older generation, are quite interesting. They range from “But look at those cheeks, he looks so healthy!” to “You could not get away with this kind of behavior in my time.” Have you ever heard comments like that? So, what to do, how to explain to people that child who is throwing a tantrum over a glass of orange juice does not deserve punishment?

To answer this question, take into consideration that most of us have some sensory deficits and that we don’t even realize that some of our every day reactions are actually sensory reactions to the outside stimuli.

  • When sitting on a chair with one leg crossing over the other leg, some people start bouncing the upper leg. The brain did not have enough information about the position of the upper leg and had to move it around (or if you have some loose shoes, some people tend to play around with it). In this way, bouncing of the leg gives proprioceptive input from the joints to the brain about the leg and its position.
  • Some people find it very painful to walk on the pebbles, they have tactile hyper-sensitivity in the area of their feet.
  • Some people don’t like to touch wet sponges or wet hair.
  • You may throw some people off their balance very easily.
  • Some people will rarely manage to hit the shuttlecock as their hand – eye coordination is distorted.
  • When tired, some people become very sensitive to sounds or light (me!)

However, some of the kids and most of the healthy adults still manage to compensate these discrepancies on a cognitive level. We know dishes have to be washed or we have to sit through a boring class and while it won’t be the most pleasurable activity, we will still do it. Kids who have more severe sensory deficits will not be able to do that. They will only be seeking the needed stimuli or trying to avoid the stimuli they are overly sensitive to. What do you do when you get out of the house in summer – you cover your eyes or squint for a bit until you adjust. So, when you see a child throwing a tantrum over a glass of orange juice, check why that is happening (hint: pulp / temperature / sourness).

Thus, when you see that somebody does not understand when you tell them about your child’s sensory needs and behavior, try asking them some of these questions: do you bounce your leg after sitting with one leg over the other; do you mind the loud noises in the evenings; do you mind the mix of smells in the shopping malls; is the sun too bright for you when you come out of the dark room…They will feel much closer to the topic when they see that sensory integration is something within themselves, too but were never aware of it. They will comprehend the issue and its intensity / severity much easier.
Let me know if this was helpful!