Glossary of Terms


Attention is a complex behaviour that requires the integration of several areas of the brain. The first component of attention is “registration”, our initial awareness of a change in sensory stimuli. The second component of attention is “orienting”, an increase in our level of alertness. The final component is involves “effort” or exploration of the stimulus. For example, our effort might be to listen to or watch the stimulus.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Is a disorder in which children are unable to pay attention, control their activity, and restrain impulsive behaviour. These problems may interfere with a child’s ability to hear or read instructions, complete school assignments, participate in games, and perform tasks at home. A diagnosis of ADHD is determined by a health professional based on observation of the child’s behaviour by parents, educators, and health professionals.


Autism is a developmental disability that affects how the brain functions, specifically those areas of the brain that control social ability and communication skills. Boys are more likely to develop autism, and most children are diagnosed before the age of three.

Bilateral Integration

Bilateral Integration is the ability to use the two sides of the body together in a coordinated manner. Examples of bilateral tasks include: running, skipping and jumping with both feet together.


Includes both motor control and praxis (motor planning). Motor control is the ability to move with precision and smooth quality. Praxis is defined below.

Fine Motor Control

Involves development of manipulation skills in the hands to eventually allow for efficient and precise manipulation of objects. Sensory motor skills must be well developed for this to occur, including postural control, sensory modulation and praxis.

Muscle Tone

Muscle tone is the tension in a muscle. Muscle tone should be high enough to hold a position against gravity, yet low enough to move a body joint through its full range of motion. Abnormal muscle tone would be either extreme tension or lack of tension in a muscle.

Postural Control

Posture Control is the ability to sustain the necessary background posture to efficiently carry out a skilled task, such as reading or handwriting. The ability to stabilize the trunk and neck underlies the ability to develop efficient eye and hand movements.


This is the medical term used to describe motor planning. That is to organize and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions. Inadequate praxis, Apraxia, is often a symptom of inadequate sensory processing. Long term problems noted in children with apraxia, include: clumsiness, difficulty performing motor tasks at age level, difficulty following directions and imitating movement.

Primitive Reflexes

These “primitive” reflexes assist the infant in successfully progressing through various stages of movement so they may learn to roll, crawl, sit and walk, etc. Babies are born with reflexes. As a child matures, these the child is able to move without the need of these reflexes and they become more integrated and do not predominate or direct movement patterns. Sometimes a reflex continues to direct or dominant movement after an age where it is normally integrated. We would consider this an abnormal reflex pattern.


This is information that the brain receives from our muscles and joints to make us aware of body position and body movement. Proprioceptive makes a strong contribution to praxis, to the child’s ability to grade movement and to postural control.


Self-Regulation is the ability to attain, maintain and change your level of arousal appropriately for a task or situation. Arousal is considered a state of the nervous system and describes how alert someone feels. To attend, concentrate and perform tasks according to situational demands, the nervous system must be in an optimal state of arousal (or alertness) for the particular task. Adults use a variety of subtle sensory techniques to maintain their arousal level.

Sensory Integration

Sensory integration is the organization of sensations for use. Our senses give us information about the physical conditions of our body and the environment around us. The brain must organize all of these sensations if a person is to move and learn and behave normally.

Sensory Modulation

Sensory modulation is the ability to regulate our responses in a manner proportional to the sensory stimuli. Some children have an increased level of arousal and seem to be over responsive to sensory input. This is described as sensory defensiveness. Children at the other end of the spectrum have a decreased level of arousal and seem to be under responsive to sensory input. This is referred to as sensory dormancy. Both extremes of modulation may be seen in one child to the same type of stimuli, but generally, one extreme tends to dominate. Both cause the child to have difficulty with allocation of attention and interfere with the development of sensory processing skills.


Tactile is our sense of touch. The sense of touch is a child’s first way to learn about the external world. It is a critical sense to developing relationships with primary care givers and to giving comfort. The sense of touch plays a very important role in the child’s development of body awareness and is critical in the development of praxis (motor planning).


This is the sense that allows us to recognize how we are moving in relationship to gravity. Receptors in our ears sense if we are upright, upside down, moving sideways, spinning, etc. As a result of this sensory input, we make adjustments to posture and to our eye movements. Vestibular sensation has a strong impact not only on posture and eye movements, but also on: balance, coordination of the two body sides, and emotional control. Accurate vestibular processing is essential for the development of praxis.

Visual Motor Skills

Is the development of smooth and efficient eye movements to allow for tracking of objects, focusing on specific targets and shifting gaze from one object to another.

Visual Perception

Visual Perception is the brain’s ability to interpret and make sense of visual images seen by the eyes.