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Rocking Studies on Autism, ASD, or that provide insight into Useful Related Therapies

Compiled by John Huff • 641 472 6651 • Floating Bed Co • • Updated 4/24/08
In some cases, essential findings are in bold. Some studies are circa 1970-80, when the language used to describe children and names of the conditions were different.

Background, and/or general information about Vestibular Motion Therapy

The vestibular system is the sensory system that responds to the position of the head in relation to vestibular motion, specifically, gravity and accelerated or decelerated motion. The vestibular system is found in the cerebellar area of the brain and influences righting reactions, muscle tone, standing balance, ocular orientation, visual perception, general arousal/attention, and neck and head orientation. Brain damage to individuals may interfere with the organization of the central nervous system, and, in particular, the vestibular system.

Vestibular damage is found in a number of disorders, including, but not limited to, autism, developmental delay of unknown origin, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, attention deficit disorder, stroke, blindness and hearing impairment.

Research has shown many benefits from vestibular motion therapy including decreased self stimulation, decreased hypersensitivity, increased postural security, increased concentration and attentiveness, increased balance, increased body awareness, calming effects, reduction of abnormal muscle tone at slow speeds and increased alertness at high speeds.

Background, and/or general information about SIT (Sensory Integration Therapy)

Sensory Integrative Dysfunction (SID) - SID is a disorder in which sensory input is not integrated or organized appropriately in the brain. Main symptoms of SID look like symptoms of other disabilities that include Fragile X, ADHD, ADD, Autism, Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD), and Tourette Syndrome.

Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT) - SIT is a theory used by occupational therapists. It is one approach used by therapists as part of a comprehensive and individualized intervention program. Its principles have been recommended for and applied to autism learning disabilities, attention problems, and developmental problems like Fragile X. Rocking in a rocking chair is one of the calming activities that are recommended. Sensory integration intervention is based on a neurophysiological view of autism.

The late A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D. of the US, developed the theory and practice of sensory integration. She believed every autistic child should have a rocker in his room.

Vestibular Stimulation: Effects on Visual and Auditory Alertness in Children with Multiple Disabilities
Journal Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
Publisher Springer Netherlands
ISSN 1056-263X (Print) 1573-3580 (Online)
Issue Volume 13, Number 4 / December, 2001
DOI 10.1023/A:1012229327941
Pages 333-341
Subject Collection Behavioral Science
SpringerLink Date Monday, November 01, 2004

Allen G. Sandler and Karen Voogt
(1) Child Study Center, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

Abstract Although vestibular stimulation has been related to increased alertness in both preterm infants and healthy full-term infants, empirical data indicating the effect of vestibular stimulation on alertness in children with multiple disabilities are lacking. In this study we investigated the effect of a brief period of rocking on visual and auditory alertness in children with severe multiple disabilities.

The children's performance on one of the five tasks assessed (tracking a noise-making toy) was significantly better following a 3 min session of rocking in an adaptive swing. This finding is discussed relative to the need for additional research on the effects of vestibular stimulation.

alertness - multiple disabilities - vestibular stimulation
Contact Information Allen G. Sandler


Magrun, M., Ottenbacher, K., McCue, S., & Keefe, R. (1981). Effects of vestibular stimulation on spontaneous use of verbal language in developmentally delayed children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2, 101-104.
Subjects: 5 mentally retarded preschoolers with severe language delay (age 3—6), 5 trainable mentally retarded (ages 6-10)
Design/Treatment:: Single subject ABAB design. Each treatment (Phase B) consisted of 10 minutes per day for 5 days of vestibular stimulation activities (3 activities from which subject chose).
Outcome Measures: Verbal responses recorded each day during a 5 minute free play situation (following treatment).
Results: Eight of 10 participants showed an increase in frequency of verbal response from baseline 1 to treatment 1. Nine of ten participants showed increase from baseline 2 to treatment 2. Decrease in verbal responses seen in treatment withdrawal phase.

(Book related to study above) –
Vestibular Processing Dysfunction in Children
By Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, Margaret

Clinical Pediatrics, Vol. 23, No. 8, 428-433 (1984)
DOI: 10.1177/000992288402300802 © 1984 SAGE Publications
The Efficacy of Vestibular Stimulation as a Form of Specific Sensory Enrichment
Quantitative Review of the Literature
Kenneth J. Ottenbacher, PhD

2120 Medical Science Center, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706
Paul Petersen, PhD

The application of recently developed, quantitative literature reviewing methods (meta-analysis), detailed in the companion article in this issue,1 is illustrated by examining the results of studies that explored the effectiveness of vestibular stimulation as a form of sensory stimulation.
Sixty- seven studies were located that employed some form of vestibular stimulation as the independent variable. Fourteen of these studies met criteria consistent with traditionally accepted standards of empirical inquiry in the behavioral and biomedical sciences and were included in the review. The 14 studies contained 31 hypothesis tests that evaluated the efficacy of vestibular stimulation as a form of sensory enrichment designed to facilitate various developmental parameters.

An analysis of the results of these tests, using quantitative reviewing methods, revealed that subjects receiving vestibular stimulation performed significantly better than members of control or comparison groups who did not receive such stimulation.

We can begin to answer questions of efficacy using research reports which currently exist when that research is properly synthesized by the quantitative review method. The use of quantitative reviewing procedures is recommended to help establish a consensus when synthesizing conflicting research literature in the behavioral and biomedical sciences.

William E. MacLean Jr.1 and Alfred A. Baumeister1
(1) Vanderbilt University, USA
Revised: 29 September 1981
Abstract Four developmentally delayed babies were given semicircular canal stimulation (motion) in an effort to facilitate their motor and reflex development. Each of the children also exhibited abnormal stereotyped movements. The theory was advanced that these movements are related to motor development and that significant improvements in motor abilities will produce changes in the intensity and/or form of stereotypic responding. Semicircular canal stimulation was provided by rotating the children in a motor-driven chair at a velocity of about 17 rpm for 10 minutes daily over a period of 2 weeks. Standard motor and reflex measures were taken before, during, and after the rotation treatment period. Daily observations were made of the children''s stereotyped movements.

Over the course of the study all of the children showed motor and/or reflex changes that were attributable to the vestibular stimulation. In addition, some evidence was obtained linking changes in stereotypic responding to the vestibular stimulation.
This work was supported by PHS Grant Nos.HD15051 and HD13344.

Science 10 June 1977:
Vol. 196. no. 4295, pp. 1228 – 1229 DOI: 10.1126/science.300899
Science, Vol 196, Issue 4295, 1228-1229
Copyright © 1977 by American Association for the Advancement of Science > > >

Vestibular stimulation influence on motor development in infants
DL Clark, Kreutzberg JR, and FK Chee

Preambulatory, normal human infants were exposed to sessions of mild semicircular canal stimulation on 2 days per week for 4 weeks. The gross motor ability of each child was assessed before and after the 4-week period.
The vestibular stimulation effected a significant improvement in gross motor skills.


Feeling the Beat: Movement Influences Infant Rhythm Perception.
J. Phillips-Silver and L. J. Trainor (2005)
Science 308, 1430

The Role of Motor Stimulation in Parental Ethnotheories: The Case of Cameroonian Nso and German Women.
H. Keller, R. D. Yovsi, and S. Voelker (2002)
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 33, 398-414

The Developmental Niche: A Conceptualization at the Interface of Child and Culture.
C. M. Super and S. Harkness (1986)
International Journal of Behavioral Development 9, 545-569

The Efficacy of Vestibular Stimulation as a Form of Specific Sensory Enrichment: Quantitative Review of the Literature.
K. J. Ottenbacher and P. Petersen (1984)
Clinical Pediatrics 23, 428-433

Wells, M.E., & Smith, D.W. (1983). Reduction of self-injurious behavior of mentally retarded persons using sensory integrative techniques. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, p2, 664—666.
Subjects: 4 profoundly retarded multiply handicapped institutionalized adults.
Design/Treatment:: Single case experimental AB design. 4 weeks baseline observation
treatment. Five 30 minute SI sessions per week.
Outcome Measures: Frequency of self-injurious behavior (head slapping, hitting and biting hands, etc.).
Results: Frequency of self injurious behavior, as documented by direct—care staff
members throughout the day, decreased significantly for all subjects.

Ayres, A.J. (1972) . Improving academic scores through sensory integration. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24-28.
Subjects: 148 LD Ss from which the following groups were formed: 30 Experimental and 30 Control Ss with generalized exclusively auditory language problems. (Average age of groups — 8 years)
Design/Treatment:: Experimental design. Experimental group received SI for25-40
minutes per day, 5 days a week for 5-6 months.
Outcome Measures: Academic: Wide Range Achievement Tests Slosson Oral
Reading Test; Language: Illinois Test of Psycholinguistic Abilities; Other: SCSIT

Results: Both Experimental groups show improvement in academic and language variables. Some measures show trend, some reach significance.

Ayres, A.J. (1977).
Effect of sensory integrative therapy on the coordination of children with chore-athetoid movements. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 31, 291-293.
Subjects: Sample of 54 LD Ss with a mild choreoathetosis (from Ayres 1978 study).
Ss divided into 2 groups - 31 Ss in Experimental group, 23 Ss in Control group. Mean age 8 years.
Design/Treatment:: Children in Experimental group seen individually or in pairs for SI therapy 1/2 hour per day, 5 times a week for 6 months. Control Ss stay in classroom.
Outcome Measures: Eye—hand coordination (MAC)
Results: Therapy group shows greater improvement than classroom control (p<.06)

Ayres, A.J. (1978).
Learning disabilities and the vestibular system. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 11, 30 -41.
Subjects: 128 LD Ss ages 6-10 from which 2 groups were drawn:
46 Experimental, 46 Control (Mean age — 8 years)
Design/Treatment:: Experimental group received SI for 1/2 hour per day, 5 days a
week for 5 months. Control Ss stay in classroom.
Outcome Measures: Academic: Wide Range Achievement Tests, Slosson Oral
Reading Test; Auditory Language: Flowers Costello Test of Central Auditory Abilities; Other: MAC and DC of SCSIT, SCPNT
Results: Hyporeactivity to rotation (PRN duration) predictive of academic success (WRAT scores)

Motor Development after Vestibular Deprivation in Rats
Hildegard C. Geisler* and Albert Gramsbergen
Medical Physiology, Developmental Neurology, Bloemsingel 10, 9712 KZ Groningen, The Netherlands
Available online 13 July 1998.
GEISLER, H.C. AND A. GRAMSBERGEN. Motor development after vestibular deprivation in rats. NEUROSCI BIOBEHAV REV 22(4) 565–569, 1998.—This review summarizes the postural development in the rat and the influences of vestibular deprivation from the 5th postnatal day on this development.

Vestibular deprivation leads to a delay in motor development.
Most probably this delay is caused by a delay in the development of postural control, which is characterized by a retarded EMG development in postural muscles. Our results indicate that the developing nervous system cannot compensate for a vestibular deficit during the early phase of ontogeny.

Rocking bed and prolonged independence from nocturnal non-invasive ventilation in neurogenic respiratory failure associated with limb weakness

Effect of a rocking bed on apnoea of prematurity
SJ Tuck, P Monin, C Duvivier, T May and P Vert;57/6/475
We describe a rocking bed for use in incubators. Its effect was studied in 12 preterm infants with idiopathic apnoea, using each as his own control.
All but one had less apnoea when the bed was rocking than when it was still. Apnoea associated with a significant fall in transcutaneous PO2 was less frequent, and fewer interventions were needed to terminate apnoeic attacks.

Kenneth Leslie and Robert Ogilvie
Vestibular Dreams: The Effect of Rocking on Dream Mentation
Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Vol 6(1) 1-16, Mar 1996.
A rocking by time interaction was found: rocking increased lucid mentation during early morning REM periods… These results suggest that vestibular activation during REM sleep can influence dream mentation, specifically, dream self-reflectiveness and vestibular imagery.

Sudden infant death syndrome and possible relation to vestibular function.
Farrimond T.
University of Waikato, New Zealand.
Some infants seem to be born with a degree of respiratory centre immaturity which in combination with other problems such as illness, head colds, exposure to cold, air or smoke, may result in cessation of breathing. Vestibular stimulation by rocking has been shown to be beneficial for premature babies in reducing apnea. There also appear to be other benefits, resulting in more rapid maturation of the nerve cells of the cerebellum which is still developing during the first six months of life.
The suggestion is made that crib deaths may be reduced by the use of automatically rocking cribs, particularly during the night when most deaths occur.
Publication Types:
* Review
* Review, Tutorial

[End of studies]

The following pages are NOT all necessarily studies, but have useful, related information, gleaned from web sites, articles, therapists’ experiences, or other sources.
Clinics often have swings For proprioceptive problems:
Swinging (clinics often use a big therapy swing that lets the person swing in a prone position).

Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, director of the Knowledge in Development Foundation, KID
(- she seems to be a possible additional information resource.)

Autism Treatment Services of Canada Newsletter, Nov 2001

Parent Skill Building
Treatment suggestions for sleeping difficulties
by Kim Ward, Psychologist

Research indicates that approximately 56% of all developmentally delayed individuals present with sleep-related issues (e.g., difficulty falling asleep at night, early waking). It has also been demonstrated that children with autism do not tend to “grow out” of their sleeping difficulties.

Attempt to determine what is “causing” or maintaining your child’s sleep difficulties (e.g., attention seeking, anxiety, medical issues). This will help you to decide which strategies to utilize.

Attempt to establish a consistent bedtime routine. The child’s activity level should be gradually reduced over the course of the evening. It is also helpful to include “calming” activities such as warm baths, towel rub downs, and lotion applications in the routine. Deep pressure and gentle rocking can also have a calming effect on children with autism.

Patterns: Heavy Burden for Infants Who Lack Sleep
Published: April 8, 2008

Infants who do not get enough sleep may have an increased risk for being overweight in childhood, a new study suggests.

Researchers recorded the sleep habits of 915 children at ages 6 months, 1 year and 2 years, using questionnaires and in-person interviews. At each visit, they recorded the infants’ length and weight and had parents report on the number of hours their children watched television or videos.

The study, published on Monday in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that the more sleep infants got, the less likely they were to be overweight at age 3. Infants who slept less than 12 hours a day had double the risk of being overweight compared with children who slept more, and the effect was especially apparent in children who also watched more than two hours of television a day.

The relationship held after adjusting for birth weight, the mother’s age and body mass, breast feeding duration and other variables. The authors say this is the first study to report an association between infant sleep time and children’s being overweight.

What’s a parent to do? “Most important is to practice good sleep hygiene techniques,” said Dr. Elsie M. Taveras, the lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard, who is herself the mother of an infant and a toddler. “No TV in the bedroom, no caffeinated drinks and so on. Getting a good night’s sleep is not just to be at our best the next day; it’s really to assure good health.”

(from Napshell web site)
Numerous studies from famous institutions have proven the effectiveness of power-napping. Marc Rosenkind conducted a study for NASA that proved reaction time can improve by up to 16% and loss of concentration can be reduced by up to 34%.

The creativity-boosting nap counteracts the biorhythmic midday-low and significantly increases efficiency.

In the lower Saxon city of Vechta, the city administration has introduced power-napping with considerable success: its 100 employees are healthier, which means statistically they are less absent due to sickness and work more effectively.

Sensory Integration
Cindy Hatch-Rasmussen, M.A., OTR/L
Therapy Northwest, P.C.
Beaverton, OR 97005

Children and adults with autism, as well as those with other developmental disabilities, may have a dysfunctional sensory system. Sometimes one or more senses are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation. Such sensory problems may be the underlying reason for such behaviors as rocking, spinning, and hand-flapping. Although the receptors for the senses are located in the peripheral nervous system (which includes everything but the brain and spinal cord), it is believed that the problem stems from neurological dysfunction in the central nervous system--the brain. As described by individuals with autism, sensory integration techniques, such as pressure-touch can facilitate attention and awareness, and reduce overall arousal. Temple Grandin, in her descriptive book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic, relates the distress and relief of her sensory experiences.

Sensory integration is an innate neurobiological process and refers to the integration and interpretation of sensory stimulation from the environment by the brain. In contrast, sensory integrative dysfunction is a disorder in which sensory input is not integrated or organized appropriately in the brain and may produce varying degrees of problems in development, information processing, and behavior. A general theory of sensory integration and treatment has been developed by Dr. A. Jean Ayres from studies in the neurosciences and those pertaining to physical development and neuromuscular function. This theory is presented in this paper.

Sensory integration focuses primarily on three basic senses--tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive. Their interconnections start forming before birth and continue to develop as the person matures and interacts with his/her environment. The three senses are not only interconnected but are also connected with other systems in the brain. Although these three sensory systems are less familiar than vision and audition, they are critical to our basic survival. The inter-relationship among these three senses is complex. Basically, they allow us to experience, interpret, and respond to different stimuli in our environment. The three sensory systems will be discussed below.

Tactile System: The tactile system includes nerves under the skin's surface that send information to the brain. This information includes light touch, pain, temperature, and pressure. These play an important role in perceiving the environment as well as protective reactions for survival.

Dysfunction in the tactile system can be seen in withdrawing when being touched, refusing to eat certain 'textured' foods and/or to wear certain types of clothing, complaining about having one's hair or face washed, avoiding getting one's hands dirty (i.e., glue, sand, mud, finger-paint), and using one's finger tips rather than whole hands to manipulate objects. A dysfunctional tactile system may lead to a misperception of touch and/or pain (hyper- or hyposensitive) and may lead to self-imposed isolation, general irritability, distractibility, and hyperactivity.

Tactile defensiveness is a condition in which an individual is extremely sensitive to light touch. Theoretically, when the tactile system is immature and working improperly, abnormal neural signals are sent to the cortex in the brain which can interfere with other brain processes. This, in turn, causes the brain to be overly stimulated and may lead to excessive brain activity, which can neither be turned off nor organized. This type of over-stimulation in the brain can make it difficult for an individual to organize one's behavior and concentrate and may lead to a negative emotional response to touch sensations.

Vestibular System: The vestibular system refers to structures within the inner ear (the semi-circular canals) that detect movement and changes in the position of the head. For example, the vestibular system tells you when your head is upright or tilted (even with your eyes closed). Dysfunction within this system may manifest itself in two different ways. Some children may be hypersensitive to vestibular stimulation and have fearful reactions to ordinary movement activities (e.g., swings, slides, ramps, inclines). They may also have trouble learning to climb or descend stairs or hills; and they may be apprehensive walking or crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces. As a result, they seem fearful in space. In general, these children appear clumsy. On the other extreme, the child may actively seek very intense sensory experiences such as excessive body whirling, jumping, and/or spinning. This type of child demonstrates signs of a hypo-reactive vestibular system; that is, they are trying continuously to stimulate their vestibular systems.

Proprioceptive System: The proprioceptive system refers to components of muscles, joints, and tendons that provide a person with a subconscious awareness of body position. When proprioception is functioning efficiently, an individual's body position is automatically adjusted in different situations; for example, the proprioceptive system is responsible for providing the body with the necessary signals to allow us to sit properly in a chair and to step off a curb smoothly. It also allows us to manipulate objects using fine motor movements, such as writing with a pencil, using a spoon to drink soup, and buttoning one's shirt. Some common signs of proprioceptive dysfunction are clumsiness, a tendency to fall, a lack of awareness of body position in space, odd body posturing, minimal crawling when young, difficulty manipulating small objects (buttons, snaps), eating in a sloppy manner, and resistance to new motor movement activities.

Another dimension of proprioception is praxis or motor planning. This is the ability to plan and execute different motor tasks. In order for this system to work properly, it must rely on obtaining accurate information from the sensory systems and then organizing and interpreting this information efficiently and effectively.

Implications: In general, dysfunction within these three systems manifests itself in many ways. A child may be over- or under-responsive to sensory input; activity level may be either unusually high or unusually low; a child may be in constant motion or fatigue easily. In addition, some children may fluctuate between these extremes. Gross and/or fine motor coordination problems are also common when these three systems are dysfunctional and may result in speech/language delays and in academic under-achievement. Behaviorally, the child may become impulsive, easily distractible, and show a general lack of planning. Some children may also have difficulty adjusting to new situations and may react with frustration, aggression, or withdrawal.

Evaluation and treatment of basic sensory integrative processes is performed by occupational therapists and/or physical therapists. The therapist's general goals are: (1) to provide the child with sensory information which helps organize the central nervous system, (2) to assist the child in inhibiting and/or modulating sensory information, and (3) to assist the child in processing a more organized response to sensory stimuli.

For further information, contact: Sensory Integration International, P.O. Box 9013, Torrance, CA 90508, USA

The Autism Research Institute distributes an information packet on
physical therapies: sensory integration, exercise, holding.

Sensory Integration Disorder in Children Adopted from Institutions
By Harriet McCarthy

Being the mother of three older post-institutionalized children, I've had to acquaint myself with a variety of developmental issues, most of which I'd never heard of before I became an adoptive parent. Over the last 14 months since the adoption of my second and third child I've learned a great deal about Sensory Integration Disorder, it's symptoms and therapies, as well as it's critical effects on all aspects of a child's life. According to a number of "experts" who deal with post-institutionalized children, Sensory Integration Disorder is normal within the context of the development of any child who has been institutionalized for more than a year. It is by no means a syndrome that is limited to children who have suffered from institutional conditions.

SID can occur in children who have been hospitalized early or for long periods of time, or who have suffered from some sort of trauma and disruption in their developmental process. Most of us who have adopted older children know to expect some fairly frenetic behaviors soon after we have our new children in our care. Any and all buttons will be pushed, every light switch will be turned on and off hundreds of times, drawers will be opened and closed and the contents thoroughly riffled.

I expected all these things last year when we brought our two new children home in October. But with one of the little boys, it didn't stop in the usual 6 - 8 week period. Instead it went on without slowing down a bit. Not only that, he chewed and sucked on all his clothes constantly, but when he sat down at the table to eat, he'd just play with his food and often refused to put anything into his mouth. He was quite rough with us even though he was only 31 lbs. For many weeks he seemed to "lead with his head" slamming it into any and all objects leaving him with huge welts. He fell down constantly - often on purpose - and would be up and going again after a really tough fall without feeling any pain. He never seemed to know exactly where he stopped and the rest of the world began.

I talked to his teachers about his "accident proneness", and they all said that they had noticed it, too. Sergei often had bloody noses at school those first several weeks. One day while he was walking hand in hand with his teacher through the parking lot, he walked right into a car. Another time he walked into a tree. My first thought was that the child couldn't see well, but nothing else in his behavior led us to suspect this was the case.

As we moved through November and December, I began to see glaring delays in Sergei's development, too. His English acquisition was lagging well behind his older adopted brother's, and he seemed to have serious gross and fine motor delays. I put out some feelers on the world wide web at a-parent-russ and asked for suggestions and direction. Several people wrote that they strongly advised I get Sergei evaluated by a developmental pediatrician who was knowledgeable in sensory integration issues. So began my journey into the complex world of SID.

What is Sensory Integration Disorder

According to Sensory Integration International, Inc., when we think of "the senses", we can easily call to mind taste, smell, sight, and sound. The senses of touch, movement, force of gravity, and body position are so natural to most of us that we assume our way of dealing with incoming sensation is common to all when in fact, it is not. Our sense of touch (tactile sense) enables us to identify a diverse world of sensations from gently pleasurable to protectively defensive." Our sense of movement (vestibular sense) responds to body movement through space and change of head position. It is central in maintaining muscle tone, coordinating the two sides of the body, and holding the head upright against gravity. Body position ( proprioception) is that sense which enables us to move different parts of our bodies smoothly without having to observe every action. Proprioception enables us to automatically adjust ourselves to prevent falling out of a chair, or to manipulate objects by hand such as pencils, buttons, eating utensils, and combs."

"It is this interplay between the senses, and their organization for use that is termed sensory integration. The tactile (touch), proprioceptive (body position), and vestibular (movement) senses are particularly important in providing knowledge about motor planning which involves having an idea about what to do, planning an action, and finally executing the action."

"For most children, sensory integration develops in the course of ordinary childhood activities. Motor planning ability is a natural outcome of the process, as is the ability to respond to incoming sensation in a adaptive manner. But for some children, sensory integration does not develop as efficiently as it should. When the process of sensory integration is disordered,( say through a lack of stimulation or movement over a long period of time), a number of problems in learning, development, or behavior may become evident."

We went for our preliminary evaluation in January. The developmental pediatrician was clearly concerned about Sergei's small size (at 5 1/2 he was 40 1/2" and weighed 33 lbs -he didn't even make the charts) and his lack of coherent speech. She diagnosed him as "Failure to Thrive" and suspected sensory integration disorder to be one of his biggest problems. She sent us to an occupational therapist for further evaluation.

Occupational Therapy

In early January, we had our first trip to the occupational therapist. She immediately picked up on the distractibility, decreased body control which caused him to fall or run into objects, decreased awareness of pain, and poor body awareness in relation to his environment. She also noticed that he was unable to screen out extraneous noise and visual stimulation causing him to be constantly overstimulated. He fit the classic description of a "Crasher", a child who needs deep pressure on his body to help organize his sensory system.

Our short term goals were simple. We wanted to 1) Improve his sensory modulation so that he could attend to a task without being distracted by his surroundings, 2) Create body awareness so he could move around in his environment without running into or "crashing" into objects, 3) Help him with his vestibular system so he could sit and attend for longer periods of time without fidgeting, and 4) Begin a deep touch program to improve his ability to organize sensory stimulation and improve his body awareness.

We had a one-hour-a-week session that went on until the end of the school year. At the same time, the special education coordinator at Sergei's school (who has a child with Sensory Integration Disorder!) got him an IEP designation as "Other Health Impaired" which made it possible for him to get special services at school as well as privately. I attended the therapies with him so that I could continue the training at home. By the end of May, Sergei was improved significantly enough to be provisionally discharged from O.T. for the summer. We decided on a program of swimming, beaching, riding bikes, rolling in the grass, having water fights, golfing, soccer, & digging in the garden to carry us through the summer months.

Dramatic Results

By late August as school was beginning, we had seen some major changes in Sergei. His distractibility was much diminished. So, too was the "crashing" behavior. When he ran into something, he registered the pain! As school began, he had no trouble attending for significant periods of time. Where months before he had wandered aimlessly around in his classroom, he now settled right down to work and began learning his numbers, the alphabet, and the computer. The school personnel were amazed about his progress and thrilled that the early intervention had been so successful. His IEP has been re-evaluated and his school-based o.t. has been discontinued. Our last private session was at the end of May.

We had hoped that occupational therapy would have helped more dramatically with speech and language. There is a program of deep-pressure "brushing" which is often used in conjunction with Occupational Therapy. For many children, "brushing" has dynamic and positive results. Unfortunately for Sergei, this technique was TOO dramatic and had the opposite effect that was intended. It caused severe regression for him in language skills, bladder and bowel control. This is not the normal reaction to this particular therapy, but it can and does happen from time to time in very sensitive individuals, so we stopped that particular part of the therapy.

But, less than a year ago we had a little boy who couldn't sit on a chair without falling off. Today we have a youngster who swims like a fish, rides a two-wheeler, plays soccer, golf, and can hit a baseball like a pro. Yes, we still have some problems, particularly with eating. Oral sensory problems are some of the hardest to overcome, but with time and a bigger appetite they should eventually disappear.

The important thing for all of us who are adopting children from backgrounds of deprivation and neglect is that Sensory Integration Disorder may be an issue you'll have to face with your kids. If caught in time, evaluated properly, and given appropriate occupational therapy, vast improvement in your child's developmental progress can be accomplished. If you suspect your child has some of the following symptoms, see a developmental pediatrician and get a private evaluation by an occupational therapist or clinic that knows about Sensory Integration Disorder.
Signs of Sensory Integrative Dysfunction
Typically, a child with sensory integrative disorder will show more than one of the above signs.
Overly sensitive to touch, movement, sights, or sounds.
Under-reactive to sensory stimulation (body whirling or crashing)
Activity level that is unusually high or unusually low
Coordination problems (poor balance or motor coordination)
Delays in Speech, language, motor skills, or academic achievement
Poor organization of behavior (impulsive, distractible, frustrated, aggressive)
Poor self concept (may appear lazy, bored, or unmotivated)

For more information on this subject, contact Sensory Integration International, P.O. Box 9013, Torrance, CA 90508

For some excellent reading material on the subject:

SenseAbilities: Understanding Sensory Integration by Maryann Colby Trott, M.A. ISBN 0-88450-625-8
A Parent's Guide to Understanding Sensory Integration by Sensory Integration International, Inc.
Copyright © 1998 By Harriet McCarthy. All rights reserved.

McKay's 13-year-old son has Asperger Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. It was because of his son that he purchased the $200,000 machine from its developer, Mary Bolles of the Sensory Learning Center in Boulder, Colo. Joey Lombardi is a patient at Darien's Sensory Training Institute, which is managed by Stamford resident Steven Freedman. The therapy places patients on a gently moving bed. The motion, which is circular, is intended to relax the patient. While the bed moves, the patient watches colored lights moving above the bed and listens to music, played at different frequencies through headphones. the $3,500 course of therapy isn't covered by insurance, and Mckay offers a money-back guarantee.

Autism hyperbaric O2 study: A way to evaluate stress.
Measurements of C-reactive protein (CRP) and markers of oxidative stress, including plasma oxidized glutathione (GSSG), were assessed by fasting blood draws collected before and after the 40 treatments. Changes in clinical symptoms, as rated by parents, were also assessed. The children were closely monitored for potential adverse effects.

Autism (see Sensorial)

The ARI (Autism Research Institute), always evaluating all forms of therapy, in recent years has seen an increase in interest of SIT for autistic adults and children.
In treatment evaluation questionnaires that were administered, parents give sensory integration a very high percentage of 69% approval, with the highest of 47 therapies being Behavior Modification at 83%.

Lorna Jean King (OTR, FAOTA) is one of the pioneers of Sensory Integration Therapy, lectures internationally, and is the Founder and Director of the Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona. When interviewed by the ARI she was asked about the importance of providing security and setting a calm tone in the home environment, especially after a busy day of schooling or therapy.
She responded by saying "It may be as simple as having a rocking chair in their room".