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DESCRIPTIONSensory integration (SI) therapy has been proposed as a treatment of developmental disorders in patients with established dysfunction of sensory processing, e.g., children with autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), brain injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, and neurotransmitter disease. Sensory integration therapy may be offered by occupational and physical therapists who are certified in sensory integration therapy. Auditory integration therapy uses gradual exposure to certain types of sounds to improve communication in a variety of developmental disorders, particularly autism.
The goal of sensory integration therapy is to improve the way the brain processes and adapts to sensory information, as opposed to teaching specific skills. Therapy usually involves activities that provide vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile stimuli, which are selected to match specific sensory processing deficits of the child. For example, swings are commonly used to incorporate vestibular input, while trapeze bars and large foam pillows or mats may be used to stimulate somatosensory pathways of proprioception and deep touch. Tactile reception may be addressed through a variety of activities and surface textures involving light touch. Treatment sessions are usually delivered in a one-on-one setting by occupational therapists with special training from university curricula, clinical practice, and mentorship in the theory, techniques, and assessment tools unique to sensory integration theory. Two organizations currently offer certification for sensory integration therapy; Sensory Integration International (SII), a non-profit branch of the Ayres Clinic in Torrance, Calif, and Western Psychological Services, a private organization that has a collaborative arrangement with University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, to offer sensory integration training through USC’s Department of Occupational Science and Therapy. The sessions are often provided as part of a comprehensive occupational therapy or cognitive rehabilitation therapy and may last for more than 1 year.
Auditory integration (AI) therapy (also known as AI training, auditory enhancement training, audio-psycho-phonology) is another method that relies on gradual exposure to sound to which individuals are sensitive, based on having individuals listen to music that has been modified to remove frequencies to which the individual is hypersensitive. Although several methods have been developed, the most widely-described is the Berard method, which involves two half-hour sessions per day separated by at least three hours, over ten consecutive days, during which patients listen to recordings. AI training has been proposed for individuals with a range of developmental and behavioral disorders, including learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, pervasive developmental disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. Other methods include the Tomatis method, which involves listening to electronically-modified music and speech, and Samonas Sound Therapy, which involves listening to filtered music, voices, and nature sounds.
SI therapy is a procedure and, as such, is not subject to regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are no devices designed to provide AI therapy that have clearance for marketing from FDA.
Sensory integration therapy may be considered a component of cognitive rehabilitation therapy. However, cognitive rehabilitation is addressed in a separate policy.
POLICYSensory integration (SI) therapy and auditory integration therapy are considered investigational.
POLICY EXCEPTIONSFederal Employee Program (FEP) may dictate that all FDA-approved devices, drugs or biologics may not be considered investigational and thus these devices may be assessed only on the basis of their medical necessity.
Investigative service is defined as the use of any treatment procedure, facility, equipment, drug, device, or supply not yet recognized by certifying boards and/or approving or licensing agencies or published peer review criteria as standard, effective medical practice for the treatment of the condition being treated and as such therefore is not considered medically necessary.
The coverage guidelines outlined in the Medical Policy Manual should not be used in lieu of the Member's specific benefit plan language.
POLICY HISTORY5/2000: Approved by Medical Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC)
2/11/2002: Investigational definition added
5/7/2002: Type of Service and Place of Service deleted
10/3/2002: Description section revised to be consistent with BCBSA policy, Hyperlink added, Code Reference section completed
10/23/2003: Code Reference section reviewed, no changes
3/17/2006: Coding updated. HCPCS revisions added to policy
1/10/2008: Policy reviewed, no changes
04/13/2010: Policy description updated. Policy statement unchanged. FEP verbiage added to the Policy Exceptions section.
12/30/2010: Policy reviewed; no changes.
12/01/2011: Policy reviewed. Policy statement unchanged. Deleted outdated references from Sources section.
12/13/2012: Policy reviewed; no changes.
01/22/2014: Policy reviewed; no changes.
12/05/2014: Policy title changed from "Sensory Integration Therapy" to "Sensory Integration Therapy and Auditory Integration Therapy." Policy description updated to add auditory integration therapy information. Policy statement revised to include auditory integration therapy as investigational.
SOURCE(S)Blue Cross Blue Shield Association policy #8.03.13
CODE REFERENCEThis may not be a comprehensive list of procedure codes applicable to this policy.