Our Approach: Sensory Processing & DIR/Floortime


Sensory Integration

The phrase "Sensory Integration" was developed in the 1960s by A. Jean Ayres to describe the way a person receives and interprets information from his or her body and the environment, and uses that information to perform functional tasks.  This is now more commonly referred to as Sensory Processing.  

Whereas the five senses - vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch are well known, Ayres’ definition also included the hidden senses of proprioception and vestibular, which work with the other senses to produce an adaptive response to the environment, and occupational therapists have added interoception, which is how we interpret signals from our body.   

Vision: Includes not only the ability to see clearly, but for the eyes to work together and move smoothly and easily, to see differences in shape, size, color, direction, etc., and to be able to identify objects in a busy background.

Taste and Smell: The ability to identify different tastes and smells. People who overreact to this input they may avoid certain food items, people who under react may seek intense flavor, heat or cold. Touch: Information from our hands and feet, as well as all over the body, including inside one’s mouth.

Interoception:   Information from the body as to what is happening internally, i.e. fatigue, hunger, etc. 

Hearing: Includes the ability to hear clearly, but also to identify which sounds are most important to pay attention to versus those which are less important and can be "tuned out".

Proprioception: Information from our from joints and muscles, this allows us to know if we are standing, sitting, kneeling, running, etc. For example, you don’t have to look at your feet to know where they are. Proprioception also tells us how much speed and force to use when moving, so we can accurately pick up and manipulate objects without knocking them over, squashing or dropping them. This sense allows for smooth, coordinated movements and is very important for learning and mastering movement skills.

Vestibular: This sense tells us where we are in space relative to gravity. It allows us to maintain balance when still or moving, and works with vision to let us know where we are in space. Anyone who has ever ridden a roller coaster has experienced what it feels like to be unsure of what their vestibular and visual systems were telling them.

When these systems are not working together optimally, a variety of behaviors which can seem puzzling to others can result. Some examples are:

  • being easily distracted

  • reacting negatively to sound or touch

  • limiting oneself to certain types of clothing

  • being a "picky eater"

  • moving in a clumsy manner

  • standing too close to or too far away from others

  • over or under-reacting to noise

  • seeking out movement activities to the point where it gets in the way of daily life

  • avoiding movement activities typically enjoyed by children, for example swinging or climbing at the playground

  • becoming very upset at changes in routine

  • becoming upset when things don't look as they are expected to look

DIR Floortime


The DIR®/Floortime™ Model was developed by Stanley Greenspan, MD, and Serena Wieder, PhD. Its objective is to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviors. The model examines Development which is the foundation for all interaction, Individual Differences which are the biologically-based ways each of us take in and use sensory information, and is Relationship-Based, which refers to the learning relationships with caregivers, educators, therapists, peers, and others who tailor their affect based interactions to the child’s individual differences and developmental capacities to enable progress in mastering the essential foundations*.

More information:

More Research

Three groundbreaking studies by UCSF Medical Center’s research team show distinct differences in the brain function of children with Sensory Processing Disorder.  

“One of the most striking new findings is that the children with SPD show even greater brain disconnection than the kids with a full autism diagnosis in some sensory-based tracts,” said Elysa Marco, MD, cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and the study’s corresponding author. “However, the children with autism, but not those with SPD, showed impairment in brain connections essential to the processing of facial emotion and memory.”      

> Learn more at UCSF online