The benefits of sensory integration groups on the participation of children and young people with learning disabilities

Craig Swarbrick, Occupational Therapist in Thomas Edward Mitton House, one of the brain injury rehabilitation centres run by the Trust, has been involved in a study investigating a technique called “sensory integration”.

Sensory integration theory, originally developed by Ayres (1972), is about how our brain receives and processes sensory information that we then use to do things in our everyday life. This theory has resulted in the development of a therapeutic approach, which was evaluated in the new study on the impact of sensory integration groups by Alice Harland, Craig and Dr. David Haines from the University of Brighton.

Children and young people with learning disabilities in a school and college took part in interviews designed to gain understanding of their views about the impact of these sensory groups. Therapists and teachers working with the children reported increased skills such as confidence, communication and turn taking. They also felt that participation in the groups themselves and other activities increased. As well as showing the potential benefits of sensory integration groups, the study suggested how the effects of these groups could be measured in future research, which will help to address the shortage in supporting evidence into the use of sensory integration techniques for people with learning disabilities.

Other studies have found that sensory integration training can also be useful for those with balance problems after stroke (Jang & Lee, 2016), therefore this approach may have practical applications for service users across all the divisions of the Trust.

References

Ayres, A. J. (1972). Improving academic scores through sensory integration. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 5(6), 338-343.

Harland, A., Swarbrick, C. & Haines, D. (2017). The impact of sensory integration groups on the participation of children and young people with learning disabilities: Perceptions of therapists and teaching staff.. Brighton Journal of Health Research, 3(1).

Jang, S. H., & Lee, J. H. (2016). Impact of sensory integration training on balance among stroke patients: Sensory integration training on balance among stroke patients. Open Medicine, 11(1), 330-335.