by Selwyn Super D.Optom., Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Southern California
(Paper submitted to Acta Psychologica for publication) May, 2005 Copy presented to the participants of The AOTA conference, Long Beach, CA with the compliments of the Sensory Learning Institute.
This paper examines the reasons why multisensory integration is thought to develop, and what research has been done to justify proposed models of this development. This forms a logical backdrop to analyze anecdotal evidence that multisensory integration therapy is effective in resolving a wide spectrum of developmental delays and neurological (software) disorders. Some kinds of sensory integration therapy have been shown to have beneficial effects over extended periods of time, when administered by occupational, physical, psychological, speech and vision therapists. Other kinds of therapy, such as the Sensory Learning Program devised by Mary Bolles, have been shown to have beneficial and lasting effects in 30 days or less. Irrespective of the time it takes to achieve these results, a rationale and a scientific explanation are called for to determine what the therapy does to alter brain structure, function and behavior in a positive manner. Also salient is that this same type of therapy proves effective irrespective of the age of the client, and across a wide spectrum of chronic developmental delays, brain injury, and behavioral disorders. Sensory integration therapy is expected to accelerate the time taken to develop expected milestones that are manifestly delayed. The effectiveness of treatment is dependent, therefore, on what structures, functions and behaviors are already developed and in place, and can be adjusted and built upon to produce healthy development. Of critical importance in understanding normal development and developmental delays is an appreciation of what are known as inner perceptual systems that drive structural, functional and behavioral processes. The key to this is the inbuilt life driving forces that combine their inner and outer energy sources in the processes of maturation, experience, communicating transmission and self-regulation. Human beings with their 23 pairs of chromosomes inherit some 40,000 genes from 4 bases that provide the proteins and 20 amino acids that constitute the building material and the building blocks to create our molecular makeup. Every molecule has its own energy potential and ability to trap energy to carry out its specific function. The energy required for this process comes from the elements, oxygen, water, and food, and from sunlight and other electromagnetic radiation to provide for cellular work and chemical synthesis. Outer and inner forces, in combination, operate to provide for self-assembly, self replication and are subject to life sustaining forms that are fit to survive. The human organism relies on the external physical environment to develop the brain and body's sensory and motor systems and the organs and mechanisms for breathing, blood and other circulation, filtration, and for digestion.
Why multisensory integrative therapy should be successful in addressing problems across a broad spectrum associated with developmental delays.