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  • 08 Aug 2019 11:10 | Anonymous

    Embarking on a university (college) course is an exciting but challenging time, and more so for a student with sensory integration (sensory processing) difficulties. We’ve looked at some of the advice available for young adults preparing for university life this autumn.

    The team at Understood offer six challenges and potential solutions in this article. They suggest these ideas for new students and their parents:

    • Carefully consider accommodation options and ask the university (or landlord) if single rooms are available, if quieter blocks are an option, if the student can bring their own familiar furniture from home, etc.
    • Familiarise yourself with what the new routine at university will entail. New routines means getting used to a new space, which can be difficult for young adults with proprioceptive issues. Talking about worries and the new daily routine can help to reduce anxiety - as well as planning how to include daily sensory diet activities.
    • For young adults with food aversions or preferences, as well as difficulties in coping with bright, noisy crowded spaces, the university cafeteria or dining hall can be overwhelming. Understood suggest talking over dining options and investigating where else on campus you can eat and finding out when these venues are least busy. You could also keep a mini-fridge within your room to keep a stash of favourite foods handy.
    • Speak with your institution’s disability office about accommodations that can be made regarding lecture halls and seminar rooms, for example, you may be able to wear sunglasses, earplugs or headphones in class, sit near an exit or the rear, sit in the same place every time, use fidget toys etc. Understood also suggest explaining to your lecturer or tutor that you may need to leave suddenly due to sensory overload and, in that case, would need to arrange to catch up on missed information.
    • Talking to friends about your sensory issues and coming up with solutions on how to handle situations together.
    • Alcohol and parties are part of the scene at universities but they are only one part of the myriad of campus activities. Explore your options but if you do want to go to bars and parties, practice how to handle peer pressure and how to exit the situation safely.

    You can read the full article from Understood here.

    All universities should have a function that assists students and looks at potential accommodations that the university can make to best support students with disabilities and additional needs. It might be reassuring to contact them prior to starting university to find out what support will be available to you in advance and to ask how best to inform lecturers and tutors about the accommodations or support that you’ll need. You might also be able to arrange a specific tour of the rooms and facilities that you’ll be using on a weekly basis to help familiarise yourself.

    The team at Understood have also provided a very helpful list (appropriate to US and UK universities) explaining which university office to contact to ask for help with specific problems, ranging from tutors not understanding your sensory-related needs, to emotional stresses and health issues.

    It’s important to realise that you’re not alone in dealing with sensory integration difficulties as an adult. It might help to read about the experiences of inspiring bloggers, such as Rachel S. Schneider of @Coming2MySenses in the US, or British autism advocate Hannah Molesworth whose posts include her experiences of the sensory challenges associated with autism @doilookautisticyet.

  • 02 Aug 2019 15:09 | Anonymous

    Individuals with sensory integration (or sensory processing) difficulties may experience additional challenges within the workplace.

    Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant  for the Cognitive/Neurological Team at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) discusses circumstances that might be problematic for individuals with sensory issues:

    “Working in a restaurant or in an adjacent office space might cause a problem because of the pervasive smell of food cooking. Retail areas where merchandise, such as bath and body products or tires are sold, may be problematic.

    “Some employers require their employees to wear uniforms, hats, or specific footwear that workers may find difficult or impossible to tolerate. Working in areas of extreme temperatures may also cause problems.

    “Our JAN offices are located on a main artery through town. The portion of the street that runs in front of our building is also a state route. We hear the continuous roll of trucks, horns blaring, and the sirens of emergency vehicles. A busy call center with the constant ringing of telephones and background chatter may be troublesome as well.”

    It is easy to see why accommodations in the workplace may be essential for individuals with sensory processing difficulties to thrive in their workplace environments. JAN suggests the following accommodations:

    Accommodations that employers can make to help employees with sensory integration difficulties:

    Fragrance Sensitivity:
    • Maintain good indoor air quality
    • Discontinue the use of fragranced products
    • Use only unscented cleaning products
    • Provide scent-free meeting rooms and restrooms
    • Modify workstation location
    • Modify the work schedule
    • Allow for fresh air breaks
    • Provide an air purification system
    • Modify or create a fragrance-free workplace policy
    • Allow telework (home-working)

    Situation: An employee in a large office space was having difficulty with the various smells that assailed her on a daily basis. She disclosed and asked for an accommodation.

    Solution: The employee was accommodated with a modified workplace policy that allowed her to chew gum in order to help ward off the smells she found difficult to tolerate.

    Fluorescent Light Sensitivity:
    • Move employee to a private area to allow for personal adjustment to appropriate lighting
    • Change lighting completely
    • Allow telework (home-working)

    Situation: A computer analyst with extreme sensitivity to fluorescent lighting was having great difficulty performing the essential function of his job in an office with overhead fluorescent lighting. The employee asked for an accommodation of telework, explaining how productive he could be when working from home by eliminating all fluorescent lighting.

    Solution: The employer agreed to allow the employee to work from home for a two-month trial period. They agreed to meet at that time to evaluate the situation and determine if a more long-term accommodation of telework would be appropriate.

    Noise Sensitivity:
    • Move employee to a more private area or away from high traffic areas
    • Move employee away from office machinery, equipment, and other background noises
    • Provide an environmental sound machine to help mask distracting sounds
    • Provide noise canceling headsets
    • Provide sound absorption panels
    • Encourage coworkers to keep non-work related conversation to a minimum
    • Allow telework (home -working)

    Situation: A new employee who was having great difficulty with the level of noise in a busy customer service location asked if she could work from home.

    Solution: The employee’s essential functions consisted of answering phones and assisting customers who came into the busy office. The employer agreed to try accommodations that would limit the employee’s time at the busy customer service counter and allow her to answer phones and do paperwork from a location in the back of the office away from the public and the noise, but denied the request for telework due to the nature of her tasks.

    Sensitivity to Touch:
    • Modify a uniform or dress code policy

    Situation: A new employee was hired by an established consulting firm that required female employees to wear skirts and stockings when meeting with clients. There was no way this employee could tolerate stockings or pantyhose.

    Solution: A JAN consultant recommended the employee talk with her employer about her disability and discuss solutions. A modification in the dress code policy as an accommodation would allow the employee to look every bit as professional while wearing a pant suit when meeting with clients.

    Temperature Sensitivity:
    • Reduce/Increase work-site temperature
    • Use cool vest or other cooling clothing / heated gloves or other heated clothing
    • Use fan/air-conditioner at the workstation / allow workstation heaters
    • Allow flexible scheduling and flexible use of leave time
    • Allow work from home during hot/cold weather

    Situation: An employee who worked in a maintenance garage in a southern state absolutely could not tolerate heat. Several months out of the year were unbearable and his attendance suffered.

    Solution: The employer installed a swamp cooler that dropped the garage temperature significantly. The employee was able to tolerate the environment and attendance was no longer an issue.

    Sensory Integration Education would like to thank the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), for its kind permission to repost the above material. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a US-based source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

  • 27 Jul 2019 13:36 | Anonymous

    I was fortunate to discover Ayres Sensory Integration®(ASI®) during my OT training at McGill University (Canada). There, I had a mandatory course in paediatrics that included an overview of ASI®. I remember how our professor explicitly informed us that we needed advanced post-professional training to use this approach. I was fascinated by the work of Ayres as I recognized many traits in myself; my fear of heights started to make sense!

    My lucky streak continued with my first employment. There I met Marie-Josée Tessier, an OT trained in ASI®. I remember my first day on the job when she proudly showed me the recently acquired Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT). She spoke to me about how the SIPT was helping her better understand children’s difficulties. Marie-Josée was a role model for rigorous evaluation and clinical reasoning. I feel extremely fortunate to have had this methodology drilled into me as young therapist.

    I continued to train in ASI® with the WPS-USC program and later opened my own private practice. During this time, I met Dr. Eduardo Ramos, a seasoned paediatric gastroenterologist who became aware of sensory reactivity and perception issues in many of his patients with stool toileting refusal. We started combining OT/ASI® and medical approaches and helped many children overcome chronic defecation disorders that were not responding to conventional treatments.

    In 2010, I met Dr. Shelly Lane at R2K, an international sensory integration conference held for more than 10 years in Southern California. Dr. Lane encouraged me to pursue research in the area that I was developing with Dr. Ramos. Since then, Dr. Lane and I have published several papers together and I have earned a PhD thanks to her expert guidance.

    Over the years in my work as an OT, hundreds of families have benefited from ASI® and the deepened understanding that this approach brings. In my work as a lecturer of ASI®, I have also witnessed how training in the SIPT and other standardized assessment tools helps young OTs deepen their understanding of children’s difficulties and leads to better interventions that target both underlying issues and participation challenges.

    So when asked about ASI®, I am filled with gratitude as I ponder upon a fulfilling career tightly link to the work of Dr. Ayres. Furthermore, my involvement in the International Council for Education in Ayres Sensory Integration (ICEASI) and the data collection efforts for the Evaluation in Ayres Sensory Integration (EASI) is giving me a glimpse of the bright future that lies ahead of us!

    Isabelle Beaudry, BSc OT

  • 25 Jul 2019 20:27 | Anonymous

    The latest issue of SensorNet is now available. 

    Please login to our website and access it here

    Please let your friends and colleagues know that they can join the SI Network for FREE to access SensorNet magazine, our monthly EmphaSIze newsletter plus lots more resources.

    Some of the features in this summer edition of SensorNet edition include:

    • The AOTA Conference & ESIC round-up – We bring all the action to you – reflections, interviews and photos
    • Environmental Feature: Sensory Adapted Dental Environments to Enhance Oral Care for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sharon Cermak
    • Practice based Feature: We hear from Stacey Reynolds and Hope Caracci on using an intensive design model of SI intervention in outpatient paediatric settings: How and why to change practice based on evidence
    • Assessment Features:The Sensory Processing Measure 2 (SPM-2) with Diana Henry & Assessing the Sensory Environment with Aimee Piller
    • ESIC Bursary awards: Three Sensory Integration Education members received a bursary award each to attend ESIC 2019 and present their research
    • Research updates - References and abstracts for recent articles related to sensory integration across s number of areas – mental health, diverse populations, ASD and much more.

    Remember that the easy click-on links in the magazine will put you directly in touch with the editorial team and we welcome feedback and ideas for future editions. Thank you to all our contributors for this edition.

    Kind regards

    Gina Daly

    SensorNet Editor

  • 25 Jul 2019 14:02 | Anonymous

    Sensory Integration Education is delighted to be part of the EASI UK and Ireland Normative Data Collection Project and proud to be one of the sponsors of the 3D printed kits that testers will use. Click here to join the project.

  • 24 Jul 2019 14:46 | Anonymous

    To All Speech and Language Therapists

    The National Sensory Integration CEN is now provisionally registered with the RCSLT, pending formal election of officers and adoption of the CEN Constitution at the first meeting.

    We have had to move the date to the following week because of room and date availability, but I hope that the new date will be equally (or even more) accessible to you. The new date for the CEN is TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER 2019. We are extremely lucky that Prof. Pam Enderby has agreed to come and be our Keynote speaker - and we're really grateful for her support! We will also be hearing from Gia Kuek who is an inspiring SLT-SI from New Zealand about how she combines SI strategies and principles into her SLT work. There will be lots of opportunities for networking - including in the evening after the CEN, so you might want to consider booking a later train home!

    The maximum capacity of the Conference room is 50 people, and so this limits us in terms of how many can attend. If you are interested in attending, please can you email me directly on Amy.Stephens@AChatterofMagpies.com and I'll put you on the list. When we meet, we can decide if we would like future meetings to be set up and organised differently. The RCSLT makes a very substantial reduction in room hire fees for CENs, but there is still a charge, and so I've suggested a nominal fee of £15 for this first meeting to cover the costs. I will place a listing in Bulletin unless all the places have already been spoken for before the listings deadline (so don't delay!).

    After this email, we are intending to switch to just using the CEN's mailing list rather than SIE's contacts - and so if you would like to continue to receive information about the CEN, even if you can't make this one, please don't forget to sign up to the mailing list on the link in this document.

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in October.

    Kind regards

    Amy Stephens MRCSLT

    Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

    Advanced Practitioner, Ayres Sensory Integration

  • 22 Jul 2019 22:24 | Anonymous

    Therapists interested in or already studying or practising sensory integration therapy in Australia and New Zealand now have a specific Facebook forum to share views, ask advice, seek support and network with peers already working or training in their region.

    We surveyed our members in Australia and New Zealand and they told us they would like to see a dedicated forum which represented the specific cultural and employment factors in their region. We hope to grow a thriving group that is beneficial to participants, but to do that we need you!

    If you are a therapist interested in finding out more about Ayres’ Sensory Integration theory and therapy, or perhaps you are already studying or practising SI therapy in Australia or New Zealand, then join us and join in today!

  • 22 Jul 2019 21:46 | Anonymous

    A: Motivating children to eat healthier is certainly a challenge and, whilst allowing a child to go hungry might be heard of, and maybe even tried in our own homes, the results are inconsistent and the literature to support this as an evidence-based strategy for children with sensory integration difficulties is very limited. It is important to remember that children with SI difficulties may not perceive hunger due to difficulty with interoception, or the stress at mealtimes caused by over-reactivity to sensory information may over-ride the sense of hunger (check out this page for details on the senses and SI difficulty).

    A detailed assessment of the child’s sensory profile and ensuring that parents and any other adults who manage meals understand how this impacts on mealtimes will be important to avoid negative mealtime experiences.

    Some alternative strategies to trial, which reduce the risk of negative mealtime experiences, could be to:

    • Ensure meal times consistent of familiar foods alongside small portions of less familiar/new foods so successful eating is more likely to happen

    • Create appropriate opportunities to explore foods so the child can become more familiar with the sensory proprieties of the food away from mealtimes (eg, involve them in meal preparation or create opportunities to engage in play with food)

    • Avoiding snacking and grazing in between meals so a natural hunger develops

    As always, when working with any client with feeding and eating difficulties, if you have any concerns regarding weight gain or risk of malnutrition, it is recommended they consult their GP.

    Have you got an SI question for us on practising SI therapy in a non-clinical setting? Drop us an email and your question could feature in the September edition of EmphaSIze.

  • 19 Jul 2019 09:49 | Anonymous

    The transition from primary (elementary) school to secondary school can be a daunting one for any child and even more so for children with sensory integration (sensory processing) challenges. Here, one parent sets out for us her recollection of her son’s struggle with this transition and explains how working closely with their occupational therapist (OT) and the school was the key to a better school experience for her son.

    Judith’s son, now aged 29, was diagnosed with sensory integration difficulties at the age of 12 years old:

    “Seventeen years ago, sensory integration was an unknown problem to most parents; even as a paediatric nurse I knew very little about the condition until my son’s OT assessment, plus my son’s condition at the ‘hypo’ end was rarely diagnosed. I have many memories of the problems he had as a young child but we always felt that everything was manageable until he went to secondary school and it was then, when everything came to a head, that we had him assessed.

    “If I had my time again, I would have sought help for him before he started secondary school. His poor memory and organisational skills meant that moving from a small primary school to a large secondary school was extremely stressful. Every day he would return home very upset; he regularly lost his way to the next class which meant he was often late for lessons. The anxiety this caused meant that he frequently lost his belongings and didn’t know how to find them. Added to that were his poor fine motor skills, which meant his work on paper didn’t match his bright, intelligent mind.

    “I still have his original OT assessment report and remember he received a block of sensory integration treatment to work on his proprioceptive/tactile senses. He was also given a writing slope which improved his handwriting. He found having some squashy balls in his pockets helped to give him more feeling in his fingers.

    “The challenges he faced weren’t obvious to the untrained eye, so we knew we needed to establish a close partnership between us and the school. Fortunately, our school was very receptive and keen to help. We shared the OT assessment with the school and this was the turning point. I believe that the single most helpful thing was that the school could now understand that he needed help in a more unusual way than most other children with specific needs.

    “The OT who assessed our son said that we should always remember that everything he did (being at the hypo end) required twice as much effort as anyone else would need. This made sense and I recalled that, when my son started primary school on only half-days for the first term, he would sleep for 14 hours every night!

    “He became very frustrated in his GCSE years but the school helped to remove or find a way round his problems. For example, they allowed me to help with posters, cutting, sticking, drawing, etc in some subjects because they realised his struggle with fine motor skills was causing him to become very anxious although his academic ability was never in doubt. He was also given an hour a week alone with a teacher to vent his frustrations.

    “So, if I could give one piece of advice to other parents of children with sensory integration difficulties, it would be to prepare your child for the transition from primary to secondary school and to work closely with the new school.

    “My son manages his life very well now, although he still struggles with organisational skills and has a poor memory. To cope with this, I have always felt, that he works very hard to achieve a level that most people take for granted and I couldn’t be more proud of him for that.”

    Sensory Integration Education would like to thank Judith for sharing her and her son’s story with us.

  • 09 Jul 2019 13:27 | Anonymous

    Back in 2017, the private thoughts of a little girl with autism who struggled with eating went viral. At the time, Naomi’s mother Miriam Gwynne, a blogger on autism issues, had exhausted all routes to improve her daughter’s severely limited diet and sensory avoidance with food.

    Miriam writes that after struggling with food ‘from the moment she was weaned’, by the age of 8 years Naomi ‘only ate a tiny amount of foods’, had a BMI of less than 14 and was ‘dangerously underweight’, with the professionals engaging with her discussing feeding tube options.

    A pivotal moment happened for both mother and daughter when the editor of an autism awareness site that Miriam contributed to suggested that Naomi herself write a piece.  Naomi was asked to explain why she didn’t always like to eat, and what caused her to not like certain foods. Her response resonated with hundreds of thousands of readers across the world; with her mother who said that it ‘radically changed’ how she fed her daughter; and with therapists who re-committed to ‘listening, really listening’ to the individual they were trying to help.

    These are Naomi’s own words, first published by AutismAwareness, and republished here, in full, with kind permission from her mother:

    “Sometimes bedtime is the best time. It is the one time people leave me alone. They stop asking things like ‘Are you hungry, Naomi?’, ‘Would you like a drink, Naomi?’, ‘Are you sure you don’t want a snack?’

    “Why do people eat and drink so much, anyway? I have things I prefer doing, like watching YouTube and playing my own games with my toys. How am I meant to eat or drink when I am doing something else?

    “Sometimes people even want me to change rooms to eat. School does that. Why? I am comfortable and happy and then they make me move and my brain is thinking about where am I going, did I leave anything I might need, what if things have changed when I get back? What if someone touches something?

    “Those things scare me.

    “You want me to move to some place, sit down, and eat what you have made. But I didn’t ask for it. I did not know it was happening. No one told me I would smell different things, hear different voices and touch different stuff, and now you even want me to taste things?

    “It is too much, so I just freeze.

    “I can hear you, but everything is fuzzy.

    “I am so scared. I am scared that people are looking at me. I am scared everyone is going to talk to me. I feel sick.

    “Why do people eat funny things? People eat things with bright colours and I can’t understand that. My body is a pinky beige colour. That is a safe colour, like a light brown sort of colour. If my skin is OK then things that colour are OK, too.

    “But do you want to know why I still sometimes don’t eat things that are my skin colour? Well, it is just wrong. And my brain is all upset about food. When I play with my toys, they look the same, they stay the same and they act the same. Sometimes I eat something and it tastes nice; it is the right colour and it feels nice and soft in my mouth.

    “But then some days I eat what you tell me is the same and it isn’t the same. It is not the way I saw it the time I liked it. It does not have the same softness, and I get upset. You ruined it. Why do people do that?

    “I order my toys in lines so when I look at them they look the same. I feel safe like that. But you don’t let me do that with food. If I put it in order, it makes sense. I want to know it is ‘right’ and I need to check it. What if it is wrong and it goes inside me? That would hurt me.

    “That is why I have to have one thing, then another. My brain tells me ‘this is nugget skins’ and I remember what they taste like. You damage it if it has sauce or potatoes on it. Then it is not nugget skins, but some weird thing my brain does not know. So, all nuggets are dangerous. And I get scared again.

    “I like soft. When I chew sometimes, I get a little tiny bit to swallow, and sometimes a bigger bit. That means it tastes different and it does not make sense. Nibbling is safer. My teeth don’t want to touch stuff because then it tastes like teeth, not what it should taste like. Teeth is not a nice flavour. You know that because no one makes anything teeth flavor, do they?

    “I feel sick sometimes. Mummy says it is hunger, but I don’t get it. My tummy makes me feel sick and people say it needs food, but it already wants to get rid of what is in there so why add more? That does not make sense to me.

    “I don’t think people like me sometimes. They shout at me and keep making me eat. I get scared and sad: Please leave me alone. I like it best when mummy puts things I like near me when I am playing, so my toys can look at it and tell me it is OK. I know my world is OK then.

    “All day long people eat, eat, eat. And I get scared, scared, and more scared. I eat at breakfast and then you want me to eat again for lunch or snack at school, then dinner, then supper.

    “I want it to end some days. That’s why bedtime is the best for me.

    “Mummy asked me if I dream about food when I sleep. No way! I dream about trains. Thomas the Tank Engine is brilliant. He never eats, and I like that.”

    Naomi’s mother Miriam said after she had ‘read and reread’ her daughter’s words she changed how she approached eating with her daughter: “I took meals to where she was. I let her eat in whatever way she felt comfortable. I made sure food never touched. I stopped nagging her to eat. I bought and cooked what she liked the way she liked it. We stopped eating at the kitchen table and let her eat while watching Youtube or TV.”

    Seven months after Naomi’s insightful words went global and the ensuing changes introduced by her mother, Miriam reported that her daughter was on the 4th percentile (previously 0.74 percentile) on the chart for her weight and has increased the number of food items she eats from 4 to 20. 

    “My daughter still has an eating disorder. She still has autism. But we are making progress,” writes Miriam; progress which she attributes to that editor who first asked Naomi to articulate her experience of her eating issues in her own words.

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