Why is it important for SLPs to understand sensory integration and processing?
Sensory integration and processing are important to SLPs because of the way people take in, process, and interpret and integrate. Sensation impacts the way they develop, learn, communicate, and interact with the world. From conception onwards, every event is ‘sensory’ first and, multiple sensory systems converge in order to generate a mental image of self and world. This, combined with memory and cognitive processing creates the ‘whole picture’ a person has of the world.
Capacity for sensory integration and processing has a significant impact on engagement, interaction, and other foundational tools for communication. In order to effectively build and expand communication, it is important for SLPs to understand the fundamentals of sensory processing and integration and how to use sensation to support all developmental processes related to language and learning.
Assume that an infant is born into a calm, consistent, and well-attuned family. To bond with her caregivers, she must sense them, sense her own body, and have a sense of being safe/needs being met? She must be able to interpret touch and smell in a way that communicates connection, responsive caregiving, and fulfillment of basic needs. She must be able to sense that she was soothed by the provisions of her caregivers in response to her crying (perhaps she was hungry). She must be able to interpret basic visual stimuli in a way that helps her interpret the world, caregivers, cause and effect, and all the patterns therein including the most basic first stages of serve and return interactions.
Sensations tell us about our internal state and the external world. Through sensation we learn to feel safe, move, impact the world, engage in self-care, form relationships and so much more. Sensory integration and processing is incredibly complex and involves innumerable sensory receptors sending information to multiple regions of the brain where stimuli are integrated, interpreted, and processed. This information then produces a response, behavior, or action plan that supports interaction with others.
In summary, we need to sense the world and our bodies within the world, in order to make sense of who we are (i.e. to have a sense of self). At the very earliest stages of development, this is mostly simple cause and effect (eg., "I do something and the world changes"). However, to understand this most fundamental part of human development, we rely on intact sensory integration and processing.
Refer to the SpeechPathology.com course, 20Q: Understanding Sensory Integration and Processing, for more information on the theories of sensory processing function and dysfunction, potential impact on communication skills, and considerations for SLPs' therapeutic practice.
Refer to the SpeechPathology.com
course, 20Q: Understanding Sensory Integration and Processing, for more information on the theories of sensory processing function and dysfunction, potential impact on communication skills, and considerations for SLPs' therapeutic practice.