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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Sensory Mix-Up

I found the  article The Great Sensory Mix Up - about how one sense influences another to be quite interesting. For example, one study found that if subjects watched one light flash but heard 2 beeps or were tapped twice, they reported seeing 2 lights. However, I would like to clarify a couple of points the author, Courtney Humphries made about autism and sensory integration.
She seems to think that sensory integration and sensory diet interventions are focused on using the senses together.   Here is the definition of 'sensory integration" given by A. Jean Ayres, the occupational therapist and researcher who pioneered SI theory:
"The organization of sensory, input for use. The "use"may be a perception of the body or the world, or an adaptive response, or a learning process, or the development of some neural function. Through sensory integration,the many parts of the nervous system work together so that a person can interact with the environment effectively and experience appropriate satisfaction. "
So, SI is all about the brain working to organize sensory input and use in a meaningful way.  SI treatment focuses on the movement and touch senses (tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive) and often integrate visual activities (vision is closely related to the vestibular sense). For example, an ideal and common SI activity would be to jump on a trampoline while throwing bean bags into a box. SI activities don't usually involve taste or smell, but a sensory diet might. 
 "Sensory diet"  is a term coined by occupational therapist Patricia Wilbarger who originally described its use to treat sensory defensiveness. It is also used to help children with autism (and other developmental disabilities) to regulate their nervous systems so that they are not overly excited or underattentive. A typcial sensory diet to help an overstimulated child might include:
  • slow rocking in a char
  • sitting in darkened area
  • listening to slow music or wearing head phones to block out sounds
  • wearing a weighted vest or being wrapped in a heavy blanket
 The sensory diet is designed to help the person achieve an optimal level of alertness to attend and learn. The focus is not to use the senses together. In fact, many people with autism are overwhelmed when using more than one sense which is why they may avoid looking at the teacher in a classroom. They can focus on the words better when not using their vision!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Unstrange Minds

I finished reading Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by anthropoligist Roy Richard Grinker, a very good description of attitudes about autism around the world and changes in diagnostic criteria that help explain the rising numbers.