The Design of a Therapy Garment for Preschool Children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction

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Virginia Tech

A design process developed by Joann Boles was used to develop a therapy garment for three four-year-old boys with sensory integrative dysfunction who participated in occupational therapy using sensory integrative methods. The design process framework has four stages: (a) problem development, (b) needs assessment, (c) prototype development, and (d) evaluation. The problem was developed by observing children with sensory impairments; interviewing parents and professionals involved with sensory impairments; experiencing sensory integrative methods; and reviewing the literature.The needs were assessed for the wearers, the activity, and the environment through four weeks of observations, interviews with the child and significant others, and document reviews. The research design was multiple case studies. The data collection and analyses followed the grounded theory procedures of open and axial coding outlined by Strauss and Corbin (1990).The resulting needs of the wearers, the activities, and the environment were translated into garment specifications and criteria. The four garment specification categories were (a) movement, (b) sensory integration, (c) motor development, and (d) play.Prototypes were generated to meet garment specifications in terms of structure, materials, and assembly. The process included writing ideas, coding and combining ideas, sketching ideas, constructing samples, and constructing a prototype solution. The resulting prototype consisted of a sleeveless pullover top, cape, and weights, and featured a bug superhero theme.The prototype was evaluated against garment specification criteria through observations, interviews, and an evaluation form. The prototype allowed full body movement and provided safety features for full interaction in the environment. The prototype provided proprioceptive input and gross motor opportunities through the elastic band loops and bug weights, and promoted the use of vestibular integrating equipment with the cape. Tactile opportunities were provided through the variety of materials. Fine and perceptual motor skills were promoted by the manipulatives on the cape and the opportunity to store fine motor activities in the cape pockets. Storing activities in the cape promoted smooth transitions, motor planning, organization, follow through, management, and self discipline. The bug theme appealed to the wearers' play interests and promoted imaginative scenarios during therapy, thus aiding in self organization and attention to task.

prototype development, sensory integration, preschool children, clothing, design process