Introduction | Ayres’ Sensory Integration®

What is Ayres’ Sensory Integration®? 

Dr A. Jean Ayres was an Occupational Therapist. She was the first person to suggest difficulties registering, interpreting and responding to sensory information could interfere with activities of everyday life, calling her newly developing theory ‘sensory integration’. She also clearly described ‘sensory integration dysfunction’ and developed ways to address these difficulties, calling it ‘sensory integration therapy’.

Ayres’ Sensory Integration® (ASI) has been trademarked to describe when people use the theory, ways of assessing and doing the therapy that she first developed. Time has passed since she did this work in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Her theory has been built on and developed by the many therapists and researchers she taught and mentored, and now those that they, in turn, have taught and mentored too.

When therapists use ideas and theories that have grown out of her work to describe how sensory difficulties and challenges are interfering with someone’s participation in everyday life, they are using the body of knowledge of Ayres’ Sensory Integration and research that has since grown and been developed out of her early work.

This includes ways of assessing sensory integration difficulties, understanding, describing and making links between how a person integrates sensory information, and how this impacts on the person’s participation in everyday life.

Ayres’ Sensory Integration® (ASI) is used specifically to describe the therapy that Jean Ayres’ developed. A tool called the ASI Fidelity Tool gives therapists a way of thinking about and measuring how closely what they do is true to the ideas and therapy principles developed by Ayres’ and her successors.

This is important because research has suggested that when it is done this way it is the most effective way of improving sensory integration and therefore also participation in everyday life. The use of the ASI Fidelity Tool (Parham et al 2011) is improving research methodology; providing a ‘manualised therapy’; able to be clearly described and defined in current research and reflective clinical practice.

The tool provides a way to measure how close what a therapist does is to Fidelity to Ayres’ Sensory Integration. There are many reasons this may not be possible; because of the person’s unique difficulties, because of lack of equipment and resources, reduced therapist training or service funding or even just geographical access to a therapist for regular sessions. The fidelity tool provides ways and means to clearly describe and capture changes made, supporting reflective practice and providing a means to promote the pragmatic and ethical decisions that are typical in current healthcare practice and service development and delivery.

Lane et al 2019 in their recent paper examine

“core constructs of ASI, as articulated by Ayres, reflected in the context of contemporary neuroscience. Specifically, we consider the neuroscience foundations of ASI in the areas of sensory perception (vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile systems), the relationship of these to ocular, postural, bilateral integration, and praxis functions, and the construct of sensory modulation. We close by discussing neuroplasticity as the key mechanism of lasting neural change as a result of ASI intervention. Throughout, we consider how current research verifies and clarifies Ayres’ propositions.”

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  1. Ayres, J. (2005). Sensory Integration and the Child (25th Anniv). Los Angeles, CA, Western Psychological Services.
  2. Baltazar Mori, A. et al (2017) Building Competency in SI : Evidence-Based Guidelines for Occupational Therapy Using Ayres Sensory Integration ®. OT Practice Magazine, (Sensory Integration Education Issue).
  3. Lane, S. et al (2019). Neural Foundations of Ayres Sensory Integration®. Brain Sciences 9(7):153 · June 2019
  4. Parham, D. L., Smith Roley, S., May-Benson, T. A., Koomar, J., & Brett-Green, B. (2011). Development of a Fidelity Measure for Research on the Effectiveness of Ayres Sensory Integration intervention. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy.
  5. Schaaf, R. C., & Mailloux, Z. (2015). Clinician’s Guide for Implementing Ayre’s Sensory Integration. Bethesda, The American Occupational Therapy Association.In the Clinic with Dr. A Jean Ayres| The Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.