What is Ayres Sensory Integration®?

What is Ayres Sensory Integration®?

Sensory integration is essential for everyday function. It refers to the ability to receive, process, organize, and respond adaptively to information received through our senses. The integration of the various sensory systems contributes to higher level functions (Ayres, 1979). In addition, efficient sensory integration contributes to the development of motor functions, such as praxis, bilateral integration, and postural and ocular control (Schaaf & Mailloux, 2015). Thus, when a child experiences challenges with sensory integration, it may impact participation in a variety of daily activities. 

When sensory integration challenges contribute to an individual’s difficulty with function and participation in daily routines, occupational therapists may utilize a sensory integration frame of reference for intervention planning. One treatment option offered to help children is Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI). Pioneered by Dr. Jean Ayres, ASI is a type of therapeutic intervention focusing on a child’s active participation in physical, social, and functional activities using individualized sensorimotor experiences embedded in play (Ayres, 1979; Schaaf & Mailloux, 2015). Research also indicates ASI is an evidence-based intervention that can improve participation outcomes for children with ASD presenting with sensory integration challenges (Schaaf et al., 2018; Schoen et al., 2019).

When implementing ASI, it is important to consider and maintain fidelity of the intended intervention principles. ASI consists of both structural and process elements, which serve as treatment guidelines to ensure the intervention is provided the way it was meant to be provided. This also helps avoid confusion with other sensory-based interventions and treatment approaches. Structural elements of ASI include therapist qualifications and post-professional training, as well as adequate therapeutic equipment and space to implement the intervention. Process elements refer to the therapeutic techniques delivered during the intervention. ASI consists of 10 process elements, such as ensuring physical safety, presenting sensory opportunities, facilitating the just-right challenge, creating a setting contextualized in play that engages the child and supports intrinsic motivation, supporting and challenging postural, ocular, oral, or bilateral motor control, praxis and organization of behavior. (Parham et al., 2011)

When considering sensory integration and occupational therapy, it is important to understand function versus dysfunction. As occupational therapists, we focus on function and participation. While all individuals have various sensory needs, it is a concern when it impacts function and interferes with the ability to participate in daily routines and meaningful activities. 

Written by: 

Maria Cerase, MS, OTR/L

CLASI Certification in Ayres Sensory Integration 


Ayres, A.J. (1979). Sensory integration and the child. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Parham, L. D., Roley, S. S., May-Benson, T. A., Koomar, J., Brett-Green, B., Burke, J. P., et al. (2011). Development of a fidelity measure for research on the effectiveness of the Ayres Sensory integration intervention. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65, 133–142. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2011.000745 

Schaaf, R. C., & Mailloux, Z. (2015). Clinician’s guide for implementing Ayres sensory integration: Promoting participation for children with autism. Bethesda: AOTA Press, The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.

Schaaf, R. C., Dumont, R. L., Arbesman, M., & May-Benson, T. A. (2018). Efficacy of occupational therapy using Ayres Sensory Integration®: A systematic review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72, 7201190010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2018.028431 

Schoen, S. A., Lane, S. J., Mailloux, Z., May‐Benson, T., Parham, L. D., Smith Roley, S., & Schaaf, R. C. (2019). A systematic review of Ayres Sensory Integration intervention for children with autism. Autism Research, 12(1), 6-19.