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Table 1 Comparison of essential features of SI and enriched environment models

From: Using animal models of enriched environments to inform research on sensory integration intervention for the rehabilitation of neurodevelopmental disorders

Essential features Enriched environments SI intervention
Sensory Experiences Large cage to explore, equipment to climb, balance, smell, touch, and push. Large therapy space with points of suspension for swings. Ramps, tunnels, balls, cushions, climbing and jumping devises.
Structural Features Adequate space and multi-sensory equipment must be present and available during “treatment” condition Adequate space and multi-sensory equipment is necessary. Also, therapist must be present and have adequate training/qualifications.
Novelty Experimenter changes the material presented in cage on scheduled basis. Variety of materials available. Therapist’s role to facilitate more challenging or imaginative play activities and change materials as deemed appropriate on a child by child and session by session basis.
Challenge Complexity of environment provides opportunities for more complex motor patterns and integrative experiences. The environment itself should afford sensory-motor challenges, but it is the role of the therapist to facilitate the “just-right challenge”.
Active Engagement To benefit from the enriched environment, animals must actively engage with the materials in the environment. Child collaborates with therapists on activity choice and is actively engaged in planning and executing sensory and motor activities.
Play/Enjoyment Sensory and motor experiences are generally enjoyable and encourage engagement (sensory stimuli presented is not noxious or aversive) Therapist creates a context of play- facilitates child’s own social, motor, imaginative or object play.
Social Sometimes multiple animals are introduced to the enriched environment simultaneously to facilitate social interaction. Primary social relationship is between therapist and child. Social interaction between children may occur but this is not identified as a core element of SI treatment.
Safety When social interactions occur, generally animals are of the same size, and “bully” animals are not introduced into the cage. Therapist ensures physical safety through placement of equipment and maintaining proximity to child. Emotional safety in the form of sustaining optimal levels of arousal.