Sensory Integration Dysfunction

I was intrigued with this topic because my family recently found out that my little cousin has sensory integration dysfunction. We have always known that he was a slow learner and that his fine motor skills and gross motor skills have not developed in the same capacity as other children his age. My aunt discovered that the special needs school where he had been attending up to this year was not giving him nearly the level of academics that he is capable of learning. She has chosen to take him out of the special needs school and enroll him into an inclusive regular education public school. Now that she has identified his specific learning needs and ability, she wants the best possible education for her child. Understanding learning disabilities is a crucial piece to finding the best education for every child.

The post below comes from an interviews with an authors of a books on sensory integration dysfunction who is also a current teacher. I think this information is relevant to our classrooms because it shows the importance of learning about specific learning disabilities, and understanding how to best assist children of such exceptionality. Carol Kranowitz is the author of Out-of-Sync Child, the most up to date book on identifying and treating sensory integration dysfunction. This interview1 was taken directly from the following website:

How did you come to be interested in Sensory Integration Dysfunction?

Carol Stock Kranowitz: I wondered why some of my preschool students were not "doin' what comes naturally." They were bright and healthy, yet they responded in unusual ways to classmates, teachers, and ordinary nursery school activities. Some children avoided altogether the experiences that their schoolmates enjoyed, while others dove into activities without an ounce of precaution.
Were these out-of-sync kids behaving inappropriately on purpose? Of course not! No child seeks disapproval of his significant olders. Every child wants to learn; every child wants to play and have friends. Something else was going on that made it so difficult for them to succeed in their occupation of childhood.

Until I learned about Sensory Integration dysfunction, I could not find a pattern in these children. The only common thread - and this is what troubled me the most - was their sadness. Whether their modus operandi was hostility, aggression, anger, frustration, tuning-out, whining, silliness, or wildly inappropriate gusto, they all seemed to sense that they weren't like the other kids. They didn't feel a sense of belonging.

There had to be an explanation, and I had to find it.

What do you find to be the most common sensory problems among children?

Carol Stock Kranowitz: Children with Sensory Integration dysfunction exhibit unusual responses to touch and movement experiences.
If they are oversensitive to touch sensations (tactile defensiveness), they will avoid touching and being touched and will shy away from messy play, physical contact with others, pets, certain textures of fabric, many foods, bumpy sock seams, etc. On the other hand, if they are under-responsive to touch sensations, they'll crave touching and being touched. These children will be fingerpainting their arms, stuffing their mouths with too much food, shouting indoors, turning up the volume and bumping and crashing into people and furniture.

If children are oversensitive or defensive to movement experiences, their feet will never leave the ground. They will shun playground equipment and object to riding in the car or elevator. They may refuse to be picked up. Or, if they are under-responsive, they may crave intense movement, and seem always to be in upside-down positions, swinging on the tire swing for long periods, and on-the-go constantly — jumping, bouncing, rocking and swaying.

It is important to note that many children are over-reactive to sensations, covering their ears when a truck rattles by, or pinching their nostrils to avoid smelling an old banana. And many children are undersensitive, perhaps liking spicy pizza and fireworks more than others do. We wouldn't necessarily say that these kids have Sensory Integration dysfunction. It is unusual reactions to touch and movement that suggest Sensory Integration dysfunction.

If parents suspect that their child may have sensory integration dysfunction or sensory difficulties, what do you suggest they do?

Carol Stock Kranowitz:
• Be a detective! Keep notes on your child's atypical behavior. Does his reaction to a sensory stimulus occur with frequency, intensity and duration? For instance, does the child have a heck of a time calming down after getting a splinter or being knocked down?
• Ask yourself the "WH" questions, i.e., When did it happen? Where? Who was involved? What happened or what was said? How did your child respond? After taking notes for a while, you may be able to see the pattern and find the answer to the trickier question of "Why did it happen?"
• Find an occupational therapist certified to provide Sensory Integration treatment. (Only about 20% of occupational therapists are.) For a list of certified therapists, contact Sensory Integration International

Polly Godwin Emmons and Liz McKendry Anderson are authors of another excellent book, Understanding Sensory Dysfunction. An interview with these authors can be found at:

This page was added by Susan Oliver.

1. Martin, Allison. Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Interview with Carol Kranowitz. Downloaded on 31 July 2007 from