Sensory Integration

Basic Understanding of Sensory Integration

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is the ability to take in, sort out, and make sense of information from our surrounding environments, so that we are able to function and interact successfully.

What is Sensory Integration Dysfunction?

There is dysfunction when one or more of the sensory systems is unable to efficiently process incoming sensory information resulting in undesirable reactions or inability to participate successfully in the child's daily routine.

What are the seven sensory systems?

Tactile System:

The tactile system includes two branches including:
A. Discriminative: provides information about what type of touch and characteristics about the object being touched.

Common characteristics of dysfunction include:

  • difficulties with grasping school tools / in-hand manipulation
  • difficulties with task performance without vision
  • decreased environmental exploration

B. Protective: provides information regarding touch that can alert our body of potential harm.



  • responds emotionally to touch
  • sensitive to grooming and dressing tasks
  • difficulties standing close to others
  • avoidance behaviors
  • low threshold for pain
  • holds small objects in hand to defend self
  • excessive touching
  • underreactive to harmful touch
  • messy eater
  • awkward in-hand manipulation
  • high threshold for pain
  • decreased body awareness

Proprioceptive System:

The proprioceptive system allows for the awareness of the position of muscles and joints. It is important for determining and implementing the appropriate amount of force needed to complete tasks and executing smooth, coordinated body movements. Specific functions are to improve body awareness and contribute to motor control and motor planning.

Characteristics of proprioceptive dysfunction include:

  • deliberately fall and crash
  • rough with peers and toys
  • tends to slump, and lean when sitting or fall out of chair
  • unaware of safety concerns / takes excessive risks
  • stomps feet, slams doors,
  • clumsy and appears uncoordinated
  • prefers tight clothes
  • prefers enclosed spaces
  • poor grading of force (i.e. throwing a ball, writing with a pencil)

Vestibular System:

The vestibular system is the sensory system that responds to motion or change of head position. It is noted to have an influence on muscle tone, posture, bilateral motor coordination, and balance. It is considered the unifying system of the brain and is responsible for regulation of arousal, speech and language development, motor planning, and concentration.

Characteristics of Dysfunction:



  • Characteristics of Dysfunction:
  • intolerant of unexpected movement
  • dislikes playground equipment
  • hesitant with stairs, curbs
  • needs to have feet on the ground
  • tends to be tense and rigid
  • seeks out movement experiences
  • constantly moves, or fidgets
  • decreased attention / focus
  • poor balance / clumsiness
  • difficulty calming down
  • irregular sleep patterns

Auditory System:

Allows us to interact and respond to sounds in our environment.

Characteristics of Dysfunction:

  • difficulty working with background noise
  • difficulty following directions
  • difficulty responding to name
  • responds negatively to unexpected loud noises
  • difficulties localizing sound

Visual System:

Allows us to see and interact with others and objects in our environments.

Characteristics of Dysfunction:

  • visual distractibility
  • avoids eye contact
  • sensitive to light
  • seeks out visual stimuli
  • difficulties finding objects in competing backgrounds
  • difficulties with puzzles
  • difficulties with reading
  • difficulties with spacing when writing

Gustatory System (taste):

Receptors help us identify certain tastes (spicy, sweet, sour, bland)

Characteristics of Dysfunction:

  • excessive pickiness with foods
  • strong adverse reaction to certain foods
  • resistive to tooth brushing or face washing
  • puts things in their mouth (nonfood)
  • gags easily
  • resistive to eating utensils

Olfactory System (smell):

Allows us to react or acknowledge various scents.

Characteristics of Dysfunction:

  • hypersensitive to everyday smells
  • smells objects excessively
  • gags with certain smells

Our Parent's Story


"Our daughter had a horrible case of anxiety but was able to get over it in 3 visits. Now she has things to look forward to instead of to be scared of."

Cindy L., Charlotte

Visit PAT

PAT Office

    2102 Cambridge Beltway Drive
    Suite E
    Charlotte, NC 28273


    134 Infield Ct
    Mooresville, NC 28117


    129 Woodson St
    Salisbury, NC 28144


  • Monday - Friday7:00am - 6:30pm