There are some great tools for isolating areas for sensory integration disorder treatment. The Sensory Profile, which was developed by Winnie Dunn, Ph.D., is often used as part of the assessment process when sensory integration disorder is suspected. It is designed to “profile the effect of sensory processing on functional performance in the daily life of a child.” (p. 1, Sensory Profile Manual, 1999). Pediatric occupational therapists and speech language pathologists gain important insight from the results of this assessment.
The Sensory Profile utilizes a caregiver questionnaire, which the professional reviews with the parent. Completing the profile is an educational experience in itself. As a parent, caregiver, or teacher goes through each section, there is a realization that the behaviors they have observed are associated with particular neurologically-based sensory responses. The Profile is divided into sections that look at auditory processing, visual processing, vestibular processing, touch processing, and multisensory processing to name a few. As each section is completed, the parent or teacher rates how the child responds to a given situation. In auditory processing, for instance, the parent responds to statements like “Can’t work with background noise (for example, fan, refrigerator)” and “Doesn’t respond when a name is called but you know the child’s hearing is okay”. Each section is further divided by whether a particular statement indicates a high threshold or low threshold for sensory information.
After the entire profile is scored, the results are placed into four quadrants:*
High Neurological Thresholds – It takes more sensory stimuli than is typical
Registration-The degree to which a child misses sensory input. A child with a Definite Difference Score in this pattern misses sensory input at a higher rate than others. This means the child is under-responsive to sensory stimuli or input or they are responding in accordance with the threshold.
Seeking-The degree to which a child obtains sensory input. A child with a Definite Difference score in this pattern seeks sensory input at a higher rate than others. This means that the child is over-responsive to sensory input or is responding to counteract the threshold.
Low Neurological Thresholds – It takes less sensory stimuli than is typical
Sensitivity– The degree to which a child detects sensory input. A child with a Definite Difference score in this pattern notices sensory input at a higher rate than others or respond with oversensitivity to stimuli. This means that their sensory system is over-responsive so even little things will cause them to stop what they are doing to pay attention to the new activity around them.
Avoiding– The degree to which a child is bothered by sensory input. A child with a Definite Difference score in this pattern moves away from sensory input at a higher rate than others. This means that the child is over responsive to sensory input or responds by avoiding stimuli.
*Definitions taken from the Sensory Profile Manual
Combined with other assessment results, one sees how helpful it is to have an understanding of a child’s sensory processing. Not only for designing appropriate treatment activities but in planning the environment in such a way that the child is best able to take in new information. When planning sensory integration disorder treatment, the Sensory Profile offers valuable insight into a format that is helpful for families and professionals. Though occupational therapists use this information extensively when designing treatment, speech-language pathologists also benefit from the Sensory Profile when developing goals and effective learning environments for a child with sensory challenges. For more information about sensory integration disorders, visit www.speechandot.com.