Your child is a unique individual. Her strengths and weaknesses, interests and sensitivities are what make her the original, special person she is. You don't hesitate to find methods to help your child learn in ways that are best suited to her particular abilities and struggles. You look eagerly to find her talents and encourage them. You brag about her accomplishments, and you enjoy all those little quirks of personality that distinguish your child from the rest — her offbeat sense of humor, eagerness to please, strong sense of self, great personal style. So why is discipline treated as a one-size-fits-all affair?
If you assume that the only reason your child acts up is because he's up to something, and that the only reason he ignores you is out of disrespect, you may be failing to take into account those very same differences and special qualities that seem positive in other contexts. Just as his strengths and weaknesses can impact his education, talent, or personality, they can impact his behavior and obedience and his response to discipline.
Expecting every child to behave the same and respond to the same techniques is like expecting every child to be good at math and at playing the cello. Some kids can calculate like computers and play with finesse. Others prefer reading and drums. Adjusting your behavioral expectations and disciplinary techniques to the person your child actually is, and not the person that society or parenting books or your mother-in-law tells you he should be, is more merciful for your child and more effective for you.
Sensory integration theory works from the dual assumption that not everybody processes the information from eyes, ears, noses, taste buds, skin, inner ear, muscles, and joints in the same way, and that the differences in those perceptions affect the ways in which children learn, develop, and behave. Children with sensory integration disorder may react in dramatic ways to information that seems dramatic to no one else, and their reactions may be misinterpreted as misbehavior. Learning about the way your own one-of-a-kind child handles sensory input and responds to it will help you understand her sometimes-puzzling behavior and design an approach that is singularly appropriate to your child. It will make you appreciate the ingenuity your child brings to getting through confusing and overwhelming experiences, and it may help you understand your own reactions a little bit better, too.
Occupational therapy using a sensory integration approach can help your child grow stronger in areas in which her brain doesn't handle sensory information very well. Think of it as a tutor for her sensory education. Think of it, also, as the most fun your child will have all week. The serious play your child does with a therapist, which you carry through to playtime at home, will gradually lead your child to react less strongly to things that alarm her senses and to stay alert without needing to engage in disruptive behavior. It will also improve her movement skills and give her an upbeat, low-stress, confidence-building good time.
Your child may never fit some ironclad mold of behavioral perfection. Would you even want that? It is your duty and honor as a parent to nurture those things that are special about him and to give him strength to meet his challenges. An understanding of sensory integration will help you do that in a way that honors your child's individuality and your own.