Our senses provide us with information about our body and its relationship to the environment around us. They tell us where our body is positioned in space, how our body is moving, what impact the environment is having on our body and what is happening in the environment, as well as helping us in knowing how to effectively respond to task and environmental demands.
Sensory Integration (SI), also known as sensory processing, is the process through which sensory inputs into our sensory systems are received, organised, interpreted and turned into purposeful physical and behavioural responses by our central nervous system.
Sometimes sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. We can all show signs of sensory integration difficulties, but for those individuals where it has a clear impact on daily life, it is recognised as a clinical disorder - Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
SPD can affect anyone, however, it is particularly prevalent amongst those with a diagnosis of autism as they are more likely to have sensory difficulties that can result in unusual or uncomfortable perception of sound, sense, touch, sight and smell.
This means that some of our learners may be unable to focus on planned teaching activities as their sensory issues cause such discomfort or stimulation. This can have a profound effect on their ability to access learning and in some cases can result in challenging behaviour. It is of utmost importance that we recognise and consider these difficulties and address them through a personalised approach. Where appropriate, pupils will have a sensory profile based on a sensory assessment with interventions and strategies to improve their sensory integration, such as a sensory diet. Addressing sensory issues should also result in increased engagement with the curriculum and therefore enhance learning experiences as well as non- school activities.
A Sensory Diet will be used with specific individuals as a means to address their sensory needs and improve self-regulation. A sensory diet is a plan of specific activities and experiences that is used to help balance our pupil’s nervous system. It may include a combination of organising, calming or alerting activities with an individualised program or "diet" of tactile, visual, vestibular support with a backup of proprioceptive movement. Pupils with sensory integration difficulties will access regular sessions in sensory circuits which take place in the hall as a means of addressing their sensory needs.