Accredited, High-Quality Sensory Integration Courses
Many parents seek out sensory books for special needs children. Parents are sometimes looking for sensory books for autism. And then there are many parents wondering if their child is a ‘sensory kid.” They are just looking to understand that concept on its own.
While there is a link between autism and sensory, many children simply have a sensory disorder.
In my former practice as a pediatric occupational therapist for over 25 years, I read many, many books about sensory processing disorder and sensory kids. Some were written for occupational therapists. Others for parents. A few for children and teens themselves. Lastly, there were books for teachers and educators. I had a growing lending library of books at my practice. If I recommend it below, it is because I’ve read it!
The Explosive Child. Emotional regulation is also a common problem for children with sensory disorders. This book explores the topic of children whose emotions seem to explode.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child. Co-written by an occupational therapist, this book shares very practical sensory information and tips for parents.
The Sensory Sensitive Child. This book is another great go-to resource for parents. In particular, for children whose emotional responses seem to be more sensitive. This one is written by a psychologist.
Sensational Kids. Written by an amazing, experienced occupational therapist. This book explores the types of sensory disorders.
The very first book I ever read on this topic was Building Bridges through Sensory Integration. Written by a trio of occupational therapists, it is helpful to both therapist and parent alike.
Sensory Integration and the Child is written more for occupational therapists. However, it is also good for parents as its latest update is more parent-friendly. It is for those who want to understand about sensory integration in-depth.
Love Jean, Inspiration for Families Living with Dysfunction of Sensory Integration. A. Jean Ayres was a pioneering occupational therapist. She developed the theory of sensory integration. This short book captures a series of letters she wrote to her nephew. He struggled with learning. She wrote to support him. It provides additional insights into sensory integration. It is a nice introduction to the topic.
The author mailed me this book when she first published. That was many years ago, for me to review. So kind of her! It is fantastic for older children and teens to read. Likewise, it is very helpful for their parents too. The Sensory Team Handbook.
Teacher Carol Stock Kranowitz has written a series of books. They are all very helpful. She uses and expands on the term “out of sync.” She helps answer the common question parents ask, “what is a sensory issue?”
The Out of Sync Child. A good first book to read.
The Out of Sync Child Has Fun. A book that is full of activities for children with sensory disorders.
Parents often wonder, “how do you explain sensory processing disorder to a child?”. Well, here’s help with this particular book: The Goodenoughs Get in Sync. This book is designed for pre-teens to learn about sensory processing disorders. But it is also helpful for parents to read themselves. Furthermore, it is great for parents to read to their children too.
101 Activities for Kids in Tight Spaces. I loved this book for its activity ideas. I would scour the book for activities to introduce in therapy in my former occupational therapy practice. However, it truly gives parents helpful things to do with their ‘sensory’ kids!
Answers To Questions Teachers Ask About Sensory Integration. Although this book is written for teachers, I include it here because parents often have the same questions as teachers about all things sensory.
These books are not quite yet recommended, but are on my reading list and look promising. I’ll keep adding here as I find more.
Growing an In-Sync Child.
I haven’t read this book either. Nonetheless, given my fondness for how simply the author, Carol Stock Kranowitz explains the topic as mentioned above, I think it would be a good sensory book for adults or youth. The Out of Sync Child Grows Up.
Finally, parents are sometimes confused by seeing “sensory books” in their searches. What is a sensory book? It is a book for infants or toddlers, It often has different materials embedded for the infant or toddler to touch and feel. And, it isn’t about sensory processing disorders. Sensory books like these are about exploring the senses.
I am going to be publishing my own children’s book. It will have an accompanying journal. And, together they will help children understand that it is OK to have different sensory preferences. Moreover, that everyone likes or dislikes different sensory experiences.
Some individuals appear to be particularly affected by the reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter autumn and winter days. The Royal College of Psychiatrists says around 3% of people will experience significant winter depression and recommend ensuring adequate exposure to daylight by, for example, taking a daily walk outside.
For children, you could create a social story (a step-by-step pictorial explanation) to discuss the change in daylight hours and any associated change in routine.
Sensory integration and processing difficulties relate to problems with organising and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Individuals may be over sensitive to sensory input, under sensitive, or both. People with difficulties with interoception (the sense of the internal state of the body) can be slower to notice when they are getting too warm or too cold - until they are very hot or shivering cold. Older children and adults may find it helpful to base their clothing choices on the actual temperature rather than their perception of it. Apps on smart devices can keep you informed about the current and forecasted weather and temperature.
Individuals with sensory sensitivities can struggle with moving on from the previous season’s clothes that they have become habituated to. It can take a while to become accustomed to different clothes, even those ones worn the previous year. The shift from lighter layers in the warmer months to heavier, thicker, more restrictive winter clothing and additional items, such as hats and gloves, can be taxing.
For children with sensory sensitivities, introduce the new season’s clothes early: let them feel and practice putting them on and off before they need to be worn. Introduce heavier, waterproof footwear in short bursts. If new items need to be purchased, involve your child in choosing the items and respect their views: what is soft to you may feel scratchy to them. Many people with sensory sensitivities prefer softer fabrics, such as fleeces, and find it easier to wear multiple thinner layers than a single thick layer but it all depends on the individual’s preference - some individuals prefer the pressure of tight, snug-fitting clothing.
New clothes can be washed prior to wearing to remove unfamiliar scents and to soften them. Completely remove labels which can be distracting irritants. Changes in clothing type can also present challenges in dressing for children with difficulties with fine motor skills and praxis. Practise these skills and make accommodations where appropriate, for example, poppers instead of buttons, velcro instead of laces, loose clothing that can easily be slipped on and off, etc. Some shops have ranges specific to people with sensory needs with clothing that has easier fastenings and no seams or tags.
Be flexible and creative: if gloves or mittens cannot be tolerated, could the individual pull down their sleeves enough to cover their hands? If a hat is out of the question, experiment with ear muffs or ear defenders. Can a large hoodie be worn if a thick coat is uncomfortable?
The unpredictability of weather in Autumn and Spring (or just the whole year if you live in the UK!) requires a lot more planning ahead when considering what clothes and shoes to wear, whether to carry additional layers etc. It adds to the cognitive load on an individual. Daily routines can help. For example, the night before check the weather forecast for the following day and pick out suitable clothing (with input from your child if choosing for a child). Ensure there is plenty of time built in to the morning routine for getting dressed to reduce the stress of time-pressures. Some children find a picture chart of what to wear and in what order to get dressed useful.
Likewise, a familiar bedtime routine can help shift the individual into the right state for going to sleep. If bedtimes need to change with the seasons, introduce the change gradually: for example, 15 minutes earlier for a week at a time.
Recognise that an individual may be tired from coping all day with all the changes that accompany seasonal transition. Work with your qualified sensory integration therapist to introduce sensory activities that calm and soothe.
We thought that you would like to join us in congratulating SIE Fellow Dr Greg Kelly on his retirement as Reader at Ulster University after over 30 years of lecturing there and pushing forward the frontiers of sensory integration training and research in the UK for more than 40 years. Greg was instrumental in setting up SIE’s MSc in Sensory Integration pathway in 2011, then accredited by Ulster University.
As Greg has been such a wonderful source of guidance and encouragement to our SI students and practitioners over the decades, we thought that you may like to contribute a few words to Greg’s retirement card. If you would like to wish him well or share an anecdote, please pop your comments on this form and we’ll present them to Greg along with a gift from ourselves.
But, whilst we are celebrating Greg’s long career as a lecturer and Course Director, we are not saying goodbye to him completely because we are delighted to confirm that Greg will be bringing his wealth of experience to work with SIE in a consultant capacity.
We’ve included a short biography of Greg’s SI career below, explaining how he went from first hearing of sensory integration back in 1979; corresponding with Dr Jean Ayres; and then going on to help promote and professionalise SI training and practice in the UK and Ireland.
In 2019, Greg received an SIE Honorary Fellowship for sustained commitment to developing SI theory and practice in the UK, Ireland and beyond, over a 40-year period and for his outstanding leadership in providing university-accredited SI training, since the MSc in SI was launched in 2011.
Greg’s interest in SI dates back to 1979 when he was working as an OT in a psychiatric hospital and read an article by King (1977). A year later when working with children in a speech and language assessment unit, he began to explore using SI with the support of his speech and language therapist colleagues. No formal SI courses were available locally at that time though so he developed his own knowledge by reading widely and practising delivering SI using home-made equipment.
Spurred on by some amazing results, he purchased the Southern California SI tests and Post Rotary Tests, writing to Jean Ayres to ask permission to use them without any formal training. Jean Ayres wrote back saying he didn’t need permission and wished him luck.
Greg then formed an SI study group with others (including Eadaoin Breathnach) to teach himself the basics. This then became affiliated with the Scottish-based study group on perception and then, in 1990, the Irish SI Association was formed. And as courses and workshops became available, he took every opportunity to attend these, in the UK and beyond.
Greg also completed a degree in psychology and an MSc, and in 1987 became a lecturer in OT at Ulster University. His published works inspired others to begin learning about SI principles and to go on to develop theory and practice further for themselves. His dedication to promoting SI theory and practice continued throughout the 1990s with the different study groups eventually merging to form the organisation we are all part of today: the SI Network UK and Ireland, now trading as Sensory Integration Education.
For a while, Greg stepped back from SI to complete a PhD, but in 2010, when we invited higher education institutions to tender for accreditation of our SI course, his passion for SI was reignited and he led a team to submit a bid proposing that the SI training pathway would no longer end with the award of PG Cert, but would also reach PG Diploma and Masters levels too. The bid was successful and in 2011 the MSc pathway was initiated.
Greg became the Course Director of the MSc in SI Pathway at Ulster University, supporting students from all over the world, to complete university-accredited SI training. The MSc pathway, now accredited by Sheffield Hallam University, is the only one of its kind, attracting students worldwide. Greg is an outstanding pioneer, innovator and change-maker for SI in the UK, Ireland and beyond and we look forward to his continued association with Sensory Integration Education.
“Twenty-one years ago, one of my children (aged 4) was diagnosed with dyspraxia, then with sensory processing challenges when he was 10. I was a young mum trying to understand the challenges he was facing and our OT gave me a book called ‘The out-of-sync child’, which helped the family understand him at a new level. It was revolutionary.”
“Prior to becoming an occupational therapist (OT), I had 15 years’ experience working in mental health, with older adults, young people, adults with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. As my understanding of sensory processing developed, I began viewing my professional work differently. My newly developing ‘sensory goggles’ gave me another perspective on the challenges diverse populations experience. This motivated me to take it forward within my new adult learning disability OT role. I presented a service plan to my manager and began my SI training in 2006, becoming an Advanced Practitioner in 2012.
“I see Ayres SI and SI approaches as valuable parts of my toolkit. The success of SI in the service I work in, has been humbling but sometimes I remind people we’re an OT service not a SI service. I’m passionate about remaining true to OT; identifying occupational participation strengths and challenges and treatment goals based on this. In our small service, we work to a tight priority matrix, resulting in the majority of our work using Ayres SI and SI approaches with those who have highly complex needs, which includes self injurious and challenging behaviour. We also find SI approaches valuable in the work undertaken with older adults attending our memory services. Increasingly we work with young adults coming to our service with a dual diagnosis of learning disability, dyspraxia and mental health needs.”
“Initially, there was scepticism and questions from peers about whether there was an evidence base. Levels of understanding tend to fluctuate so I need to be ready to explain SI practice and research to consultants, Allied Health Professionals, parents or carers and service users, in the most appropriate ways. Care providers initially thought SI was about fluffy stuff and sensory rooms. Once they started observing outcomes related to changes in engagement, participation and reduction in maladaptive behaviours, with service users and staff having fun they came on board quickly. I feel the key to having successful outcomes is to educate and train staff to use effective and appropriate sensory interventions, enabling them to recognise those small adaptive responses. This in turn assists with analysing an individual’s sensory processing needs.
“The service has developed from carrying a few SI resources in car boots to working in a bespoke SI clinic, designed for adults and wheelchair users. The trust has been very interested and supportive in our developing work. We’ve had board members visit the clinic and I was invited to present at the Trust Recognition Awards.
“SIT is now a recognised model of practice within ALD, Asperger’s, the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and some areas of community mental health, to include some high-profile cases where SI approaches have been successful in reducing restraint. Older adult community and the in-patient unit is in development with two OTs attending the training last year. We hold SI peer supervision meetings, where there is the opportunity for non-SI trained OTs to bring cases we can support them with.
“We’ve also received Trust Recognition Awards for our work, but we face similar challenges to other services, such as SI training costs and movement of staff, meaning loss of expertise. As a service we have to manage our business plan, together with the expectations of our many stakeholders. A creative approach towards development is essential in today’s financial climate of public services.
“The people I work with and the changes to their lives, particularly when SI enables me to reach people with complex needs. One person had been self-injuring for years; she was blind in one eye due to a detached retina. After seven weeks of SI therapy at the clinic, staff training, changes made to her environment and implementation of sensory integration activities along with a personalised SI diet in place, she has now stopped self-injuring. Carers report this has been life changing for her and she is likely to keep the sight of her good eye. She is so much happier and the staff approach has significantly changed for the better.
“Presenting the care pathway we have developed in Somerset at ESIC 2015 was a very proud moment. It encompassed all the service developments, to which we had a wonderful response including from Diane Parham.”
“Within Adult Learning Disability services, there’s a high incidence of dementia for adults with Down’s Syndrome. I also offer consultancy to our older inpatient units and to the community services. We find SI approaches valuable for challenges with personal care, to include changes to vestibular processing affecting hoisting and mobilising. It can help with calming and self-soothe strategies, especially for individuals experiencing distress and agitation, including pacing.”
“Joint work with physiotherapy developed when I started receiving referrals for adults with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. Carol Minty, the Learning Disability physiotherapy technician, has been working with me from the onset and her work has been invaluable ensuring safe practice in regard to positioning. Carol is highly skilled and taught me how to work hands-on with individuals. SI therapy with this population begins with passive movement and touch, building towards that all exciting moment of stepping into Ayres SI as that adaptive response is elicited and starts the SI communication and scaffolding.”
“It’s a complementary role rather than a different one. We know when to step in and when to step out, like a dance. The choices we make in terms of the work we do come naturally. Carol is very intuitive to people’s needs.”
“To complete my MSc studies, I carried out a systematic review of the literature considering Ayres SI as an Occupational Therapy Intervention for Maladaptive Behaviours. Findings suggested that using Ayres SI, in the treatment of maladaptive behaviours may increase independence, reduce carer need and improve occupational participation. The findings demonstrate positive outcomes in regard to increased occupational participation, which was positive to demonstrate how OTs can use their core skills to plan outcomes of Ayres SI therapy.”
“The Pool Activity Level for sensory aspects is a good starting point. For people with profound difficulties, the STEP model looks systematically and holistically at sensory processing needs. The combination of PAL and AMPs, with an SI hat on, can be useful in terms of unpicking the challenges and engagement at the right level.”
“The development process was terrifying at times. We needed to consider the structural elements of the Fidelity Measure and adapt parts of it to meet the varying needs of our service users to include those who had significant ASD needs and those who are not ambulant.
“We gained valuable input from other services with clinics about what had worked well for them. We needed to have space and sufficient height for adults to move about, and to accommodate suspended equipment, which was suitable for adult weight. We’ve created a space that can be adapted to individual needs. Safety for service users, staff and ourselves have also played a role in choice and access to equipment, having storage directly off the room is invaluable when you need to calm the environment down quickly to accommodate increasing arousal levels.”
*This article was first published in SensorNet 48 : November 2016 ISSN: 2048-1357.
If you work with older adults and would like to learn more about introducing an SI approach, we host regular live, online training days on Applying SI Therapy Principles with Older Adults.
For many of us, our jobs and roles as therapists have changed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been embracing the changes as best we can to ensure that we can still reach our clients and families. In the latest edition of our magazine SensorNet, we’ve gathered nine stories, (from a range of settings), on how therapists are adapting their sensory integration practices in response to the pandemic restrictions.
To read the full suite of nine articles, see SensorNet issue 56 August 2020 which is available free for SIE members (and you can join for free as a Bronze member today). Here’s a taster of the articles:
Amanda Howard, MSc BSc Dip.OT., from Therapy Foundations for Education tells us how their practice has adapted during the course of the pandemic and how they are still able to meet the needs of children and families who access their services. Therapy Foundations is a service that provides occupational therapy and educational support to enable children to become more confident and successful with skills they need to help them play better, perform better at home and school, and to communicate and develop social skills.
“The response to the current situation varies amongst those with whom we work with. Some children with autism appear to benefit from being at home and are more regulated. Telehealth has enabled us to support parents in progressing their development. However, other children who need and rely on routine are very dysregulated. For these children, we have returned to floor work especially rhythmic movements, grounding strategies and establishing routines to help them regulate and feel safe.”
Mary Read, Occupational Therapist and Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration, from TakePart Occupational Therapy, shares her thoughts and experiences of moving forward and adapting her practice in a time of crisis and uncertainty.
“I felt more encouraged once I decided to stop myself ‘leading the therapy’ online but rather to support the parents regularly in their ideas of sensory rich activity and regulation within their own home settings. I have seen several parent’s own confidence and sense of agency increase greatly as they are facilitating and seeing the progress their own child is making.”
Fiona Taylor, Occupational Therapy Professional Lead of the Specialist Learning Disability Service at Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust, shares how both herself and her team have been adapting their service during this global pandemic.
“A key observation we made is that individuals with some sensory differences which do not generally affect day to day functioning, have suddenly found their thresholds considerably lowered due to anxiety and lack of routine.”
Katy Hands, senior paediatric occupational therapist from the Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, tells us how she has been adapting to the changes which the COVID-19 restrictions have brought to clinical practice.
“By providing the workshop in a live virtual format, as opposed to filming and sending a link, this allowed for valuable clinical discussion with families where questions often arose around the most effective ways to carry out strategies whilst at home.”
Kate Broughton is an Occupational Therapist and SI Practitioner (PGCert in SI) working as part of a commissioned health professional team at a specialist school in Norfolk.
“I have devised bespoke sensorimotor programmes for children to complete within their home environment. These programmes have been presented both visually (by using photographs of myself completing the activities) and with written instructions of how to complete the activity. Most families have received their child’s programme as a laminated, hard copy document for ease of access.”
“Live & Love It” is a husband and wife founded children’s therapy practice. The service is based at the Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration Studio in Horsham where they support young people aged 0-19 to Live Life and Love It! Clients do not require a diagnosis to access services though they do see a high number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyspraxia, sensory processing difficulties, down syndrome, genetic disorders and developmental trauma. Ashleigh Dick, Director, Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Advanced Sensory Integration Practitioner explains how they have been adapting their practice and meeting their clients’ sensory integration needs during this challenging time.
“[Play] comes naturally to some parents, but for others the prospect of creating novel play opportunities [during lockdown] was daunting. For these families, we provided play programmes founded in ASI theory; parents sent photos of their play equipment and the therapist provided activity themes and suggestions for each item.”
We welcome back Mahek Uttamchandani, Neonatal and Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Director of therapy services in the Stepping Stones Paediatric Therapy Centre, in Mumbai India. Mahek kindly shared about her role within a neonatal unit in our previous edition of SensorNet and now we hear how she has adapted and changed her service delivery in light of COVID-19.
“Preparing to conduct the ASI sessions virtually requires redefining the structural therapeutic environment and creatively utilizing available space in the client’s home or immediate community.”
“I like to think the following mantra is very apt as we move forward through this new normal: 'Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can'.”
Jacci Siebert is an Occupational Therapist (OT) of 26 years having graduated in 1994 from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. After 5 years working in a variety of settings in South Africa and the United States, she moved to the UK where she has worked in paediatric settings, community, education and private practice and eventually specialising in sensory processing and Autism Spectrum Condition in a special school setting.
“We have had some ideas about how we might provide further coaching for the affected babies and their parents covering topics such as ‘Serve and Return’ responsiveness, ‘Goodness of Fit’ reciprocity and co-regulation, however this is still very much in its infancy and at this stage we are very much going baby by baby.”
Moira Veira, Specialist Occupational Therapist at SenSI Treatment in Norwich tells us about the practical implications, which the new COVID-19 restrictions have brought to their clinical practice. This demonstrates the creativity, adaptability and resourcefulness of how this practice has responded in a time of crisis.
“COVID-19 has placed more focus on parents delivering home based sensory sessions, using the equipment and garden spaces available to them, and as a result, we are seeing much more regulated children (and parents).”
Thank you to all our contributors!
To read the full suite of nine articles, see SensorNet issue 56 August 2020 which is available free for SIE members (and you can join for free as a Bronze member today).
By Meg Faure, OT and author of parenting books including Baby Sense, Sleep Sense, Feeding Sense and Weaning Sense. Meg is hosting three online courses for us, aimed at therapists and psychologists, on infant sense integration training: see here.
In recent years it has become accepted wisdom that a certain amount of stimulation is needed to optimise a babies’ development. The reason is an interesting one. A baby is actually born with all the necessary brain cells for all areas of development. In order to make sense of the world, the baby’s brain must make connections between these brain cells. It is sensory input or stimulation from the environment that assists in the formation of connections between brain cells, thereby developing intelligence and coordination. If, however, a brain cell is never used it will eventually disappear. For instance if a baby never hears a musical instrument being played he will eventually loose the brain cells that could contribute to musical brilliance. It truly is a case of ‘use it or loose it’.
This information is enough to send any parent into a frenzy of stimulate, stimulate, stimulate! But is the case of ‘the more the better’ really true in this instance? The answer is no! If a baby’s immature brain is subjected to an overload of stimulation it reacts by becoming over whelmed and over stimulated. In this state the brain cannot use all the well intentioned input. For instance, a 6 month old who becomes over stimulated during the course of a moms and babies stimulation group, will not benefit at all from the stimulating activities.
We need to have a balanced view of stimulation. This means that we do not avoid over stimulation at all costs and do nothing for our children. But rather that we modulate stimulation in order to enhance development. We do this through an enriched but not over stimulating environment and routine.
We can use the following principles to ensure that we provide an optimal environment for development and learning:
The key to a contented baby who benefits maximally from his/her world is to modulate the stimulation he/she receives.
Republished with kind permission from Meg Faure: www.megfaure.com.
Find out more about the courses that Meg is hosting for us on infant sense integration training here.
Sensory Integration Education have been asked by Samantha Armitage, Occupational Therapist, to publicise this Children's Therapy Research Trials Questionnaire for parents and therapists:
"We are interested in parents’ and therapists’ views about taking part in a trial of therapy treatments for children. A trial is a research project that compares two or more treatments and evaluates how effective the treatments are.
Trials give us information about effective treatments for improving children’s health. We want to find out what parents and therapists think about the different ways they can take part in a trial and, considering the different ways, willingness to take part.
You are invited to complete a questionnaire about willingness to take part in a trial. The information you give will inform a future trial of self-care treatments for children with disabilities. Participation is completely voluntary. You can find out more and complete the questionnaire here:
Please feel free to forward the link to anyone who might be interested. If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com
This study has received ethical approval from the North West - Greater Manchester West Research Ethics Committee and the Health Research Authority (Ref: 19/NW/0521)"
Sensory Integration Education is delighted to announce that its world-first MSc pathway in Sensory Integration is now validated by Sheffield Hallam University, one of the largest allied health professions education providers in the UK.
Following a rigorous assessment of Sensory Integration Education’s (SIE) courses, teaching, resources, student experience, quality assurance procedures, staff expertise and student support provision, the online PGCert, PGDIp and MSc in Sensory Integration training pathway will be accredited by Sheffield Hallam University (Hallam) from September 2020 onwards.
SIE has a proven twenty-year track record of providing UK university-accredited postgraduate education in sensory integration. The entire MSc pathway is now available via online learning, supplemented by clinical hours experience and supported by an individual eMentor.
Dr Sylvia Taylor-Goh, Director of Education Strategy and Innovation, SIE said:
“This new partnership with Sheffield Hallam University assures the continuous innovation of our postgraduate education programmes for the global community of therapists wishing to qualify as SI Practitioners and Advanced Practitioners and for the myriad of professionals who desire to learn about SI for their continuing professional development. We’re thrilled that our students will have access to the impressive online learning and student support facilities at Hallam, as well as excited ourselves to begin working with their College of Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences to further develop educational programmes and research in sensory integration.”
Sheffield Hallam University is UK University of the Year for Teaching Quality 2020*; in the top 5 modern universities for research that is rated internationally excellent or world leading**; and is ranked fifth in the country for satisfaction with learning resources***.
Dr Toni Schwarz, Dean of College of Health Wellbeing and Life Sciences at Sheffield Hallam University said:
“We are delighted to be partnering with Sensory Integration Education to develop research, post graduate programmes and to explore other opportunities. The College of Health Wellbeing and Life Sciences as one of the largest providers of Health and Social Care education in the UK has a proven track record in providing high quality online and distance learning provision to both pre-registration students and experienced practitioners . Sensory Integration Education also has an established track record in providing world class training and developing advanced practitioners. We look forward to working with like-minded professionals to further develop educational programmes and research in sensory integration.”
Enquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
* The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020
** REF 2014
*** National Student Survey 2018
Sensory integration (or sensory processing) is the theory of how the brain interprets the sensory information it receives, compares it to other information coming in, as well as to information stored in the memory, and then uses all of this information to help an individual respond to their environment. Sensory integration is vital in everything that we do.
Difficulties with receiving and processing sensory information from one’s body and environment could relate to difficulties at school or using one’s body to engage in everyday life. Sensory integration difficulties (sometimes referred to as sensory processing difficulties or sensory processing disorder) can occur in combination with other diagnoses including: Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Attention Deficit, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Coordination Disorder and Regulatory Disorder.
Our understanding of sensory integration was initially developed in the late 60s and 70s by Dr Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and psychologist with an understanding of neuroscience, who developed the theory and practice of Ayres’ Sensory Integration.
Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy® is a specialised treatment approach which meets the criteria for an evidence-based practice for children with ASD (1). Atypical sensory reactivity can significantly affect adaptive behaviours and everyday functioning such as sleep (2), play (3) and family life (4). When used in suitably equipped settings (5) by therapists with a postgraduate qualification in sensory integration, it can improve and increase:
functional skills, independence, social participation and educational attainment of children with ASD
adaptive responses to environmental challenges where there are atypical sensory responses (6) (7) (8) (9). This can mean a reduction in challenging behaviours for some children.
Sensory integration therapy should only be carried out by a qualified SI Practitioner: this is a qualified occupational therapist, speech and language therapist or physiotherapist who has undertaken additional, rigorous postgraduate training in SI. This training involves developing a detailed understanding of the neuroscience and evidence base underpinning sensory integration as well as developing expertise in assessing and providing intervention for people with sensory integration problems.
Stock image: not actual case subject.
By the age of 11, Leo lived in his own little world. A once caring child, Leo had become aggressive and sensitive to noise, and he demanded a very rigid routine. He was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and autism. As a teenager, Leo displayed extremely challenging behaviour, and:
Couldn’t cope with the journey to school
Had frequent and uncontrollable meltdowns
Threw furniture around the classroom and at other pupils and staff
Made little progress in learning
Could not be managed at home.
His mother described every day as ‘a bad day’.
A long-term out of area residential placement (circa £180k pa) was being considered for Leo’s and others safety.
Before the placement, Leo was identified as having significant sensory integration challenges. He received a comprehensive assessment and weekly term-time Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy® from an Occupational Therapist (51 x 1-hour sessions over 15 months).
Leo has made demonstrable and significant functional gains. He:
Can walk, run and climb stairs
Is still at home where he now helps with chores
Is engaged with learning and attending a local further education college
Is enjoying learning how to manage money
Attends karate classes with his older brother
Mum now describes Leo as having ‘nothing but good days’.
Find out about training as a Sensory Integration Practitioner here.
Find a qualified Sensory Integration Practitioner here.
(1) According to The National Professional Development Centre on ASD; The Council for Exceptional Children Guidelines for Identifying Evidence Based Practices in Special Education; and the US Preventive Services Task Force Guidelines for Evidence Reviews.
(2) Reynolds S, Lane S & Thacker L, (2011), Sensory Processing, Physiological Stress, And Sleep Behaviours In Children With And Without Autism Spectrum Disorders, Occupational Therapy Journal of Research: Occupation, Participation and Health, vol 32, 1 p246-257.
(3) Bodison S, (2015), Developmental Dyspraxia And The Play Skills Of Children With Autism, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol 69, 5 p6.
(4) Bagby M S, Dickie V A & Baranek G T, (2009), How Sensory Experiences Of Children With And Without Autism Affect Family Occupations, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol 66, 1 p78-86.
(5)Parham ID, Roley, SS, May-Benson TA, et al, (2011), Development Of A Fidelity Measure For Research On The Effectiveness Of The Ayres Sensory Integration Intervention, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol 65, 2 p133-42.
(6) Pfeiffer B A, (2011), Effectiveness Of Sensory Integration Interventions In Children With Autistic Spectrum Disorders; A Pilot Study, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol 65, 1 p76-85.
(7) Schaaf R C, Benevides T, Mailoux Z, et al, (2013), An Intervention For Sensory Difficulties In Children With Autism: A Randomized Trial, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol 44, 7 p1493-1506.
(8) Case-Smith J, Weaver L L & Fristad M A, (2014), A Systematic Review Of Sensory Processing Interventions For Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, University of York, Centre for Research and Dissemination (Pubmed).
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18 July 2020: Today marks the centenary of sensory integration founder Dr Jean Ayres’ birth. To celebrate, Sensory Integration Education is giving away 100 courses to the first people to sign up to the following entry-level courses.
Wow! All the free course codes in honour of Jean Ayres' centenary have now been used but we are still running our special offer prices on these two courses..
Introduction to Sensory Integration Difficulties Online Course £10
Understanding Sensory Processing and Integration for Parents and Carers £5
Jean Ayres, a US occupational therapist and psychologist with a strong understanding of neuroscience, initially developed the theory of sensory integration in the late 60s and 70s. Jean Ayres was interested in explaining how difficulties with receiving and processing sensory information from one’s body and environment could relate to difficulties at school or using one’s body to engage in everyday life. A prolific and published researcher, Jean received many awards during her lifetime and since her death in 1988. Throughout her career, she continued to practice sensory integration therapy in her clinic benefiting hundreds of children and their families, as well as the many therapists whom she mentored.
We have chosen to give away 100 courses in honour of Jean Ayre’s 100th birthday as a fitting tribute to this inspirational scientist and therapist. This giveaway forms part of our wider Legacy Project: a written, oral and photographic record of our organisation’s rich history to inspire and inform current and future SI practitioners, researchers and educators.
In the run up to Jean Ayres’ 100th birthday we have been publishing quotes by and about Jean and her life’s work on our social media channels: you can see the full suite of artwork here. https://www.sensoryintegration.org.uk/News/9107852
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