I am going to give you a profile of a child and you can tell me if this sounds familiar:
This child does not need a lot of sleep and often times wakes up wired and ready to go. This child is sometimes literally bouncing off of the walls engaged in constant activity. Even while sitting, they are moving by popping up and down in their chair or kicking their legs. This child bumps into people and cannot stop touching people or objects in his environment. If this child is in a large room or enclosed space, he will run to seek out the boundaries of this space. This child loves to crash into the couch or jump on the bed. This child's first word was "GO!"
I just gave you a profile of my own child who has always had issues related to hyperactivity. I am sure many of you can relate.
Although there are many explanations for hyperactivity out there, the one explanation for my son's behaviors which makes the most sense to me comes from approaching this from a sensory integration standpoint.
What is sensory integration exactly? I am sure you probably have heard this term by now but perhaps some of you are confused by what it means. As I understand the concept, it starts with the premise that we are all sensory beings. We take in information from our senses. In addition to using our five senses we also have a "vestibular" sense and a "proprioceptive " sense. Our vestibular sense is our balance and movement sense. This sense tells you where you are in relation to the ground and things around you. Our proprioceptive sense gives us information about how are bodies are moving in space. This awareness is what helps us to control and to plan our motor movements.
It is said that a child with sensory integration problems has some difficulty processing information coming in through these seven senses. Some children will have difficulty because they either under responsive to stimuli such as sounds, touch, or feeling their body in space. And some children feel the need to tune out stimuli because they take too much in. For example, the child who is overly sensitive to sounds may cringe or cry when they hear a car horn or leaf blower because to them these sounds are painful. An example of a child who is under responsive to information coming in through their proprioceptive sense might be the child who is purposefully bumping or crashing into things so that they can better feel where their body is in space.
I believe that so much of behavior is caused by the individual's seeking balance to feel "normal." If you look at things in this way it makes sense that my son sometimes bounces off of the walls. He is craving that sensory input in order in order to feel okay.
Sensory Integration is a method of helping the child who has such difficulties with processing information through their senses to better adapt to the world. In our case we went to an Occupational Therapist in order to get this type of therapy for my son. I would highly recommend seeing a professional such as an OT if you feel your child has sensory integration problems but there are things you can easily do at home as well. An OT will be able to give you many ideas but the real work takes place in the child's natural environment.