Sensory Integration Education (SIE) has reviewed the Royal College of Occupational Therapists' (RCOT) new publication, Informed View: Sensory Integration and sensory-based interventions (2021), with interest.
It clearly states the importance of working within an evidence-based framework and aims to provide information regarding the ongoing development of the evidence base around sensory processing and integration difficulties. Many of our other allied health profession interventions are also pursuing the goals of strengthening the evidence base and seeking to understand the core active components within them.
This publication clearly states it is not intended to be a systematic evaluation of the sensory processing and integration literature and as such, limited literature is included and does not represent articles published since 2018. This affects its value as an information document for RCOT members. It will also be referred to by commissioners and others and is likely to negatively impact service users’ access to intervention. SIE would welcome the opportunity to work with RCOT to critically appraise and synthesize the literature more comprehensively to produce evidence-informed practice guidance for the benefit of those living with sensory processing and integration challenges.
RCOT’s focus on developing the evidence base articulates well with SIE’s commitment to the same. Our not-for-profit organisation is proactively committed to supporting and developing clinically focused and research informed / active alumni. These alumni work within the multidisciplinary context, across the lifespan, and crucially within an evidenced-based frame of reference. Our strategy of supporting research in the field is made practical in many ways, one of which is the opportunity to apply for our Research Grant Awards.
The RCOT view that Occupational Therapists should maintain an occupational focus is explicitly the same values and focus on our courses, with person-centred focus teaching throughout our curriculum and emphasis on improving participation in all areas of the individual’s life.
We agree with their recommendation that therapists should understand the difference between Ayres’ Sensory Integration and sensory-based interventions, be clear about their rationale and evidence base for using these interventions, establish person centred goals, review their intervention, use outcome measures and audit the effectiveness of their intervention. These are key elements of our curriculum.
SIE ensures that students are able to evaluate and articulate the evidence and we are delighted that our postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma and MSc curriculum includes teaching and supervisory input from international experts within and outwith the field of sensory processing and integration.
SIE’s postgraduate pathway for Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech and Language Therapists, delivered with our partner university Sheffield Hallam University is being carefully mapped to the current UK Allied Health Profession professional bodies and government policies and frameworks around advanced practice. As such, it seeks to continuously develop the students’ skills, aligned to the four pillars of the Advanced Clinical Practice Framework within the overarching framework of becoming an Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration.
Therapists working towards their Postgraduate Certificate in Sensory Integration to become an SI Practitioner focus on developing and evidencing both their clinical and research capabilities. We believe it is critical that our SI Practitioners are as confident in the underpinning neuroscience which informs their clinical reasoning and decision-making as they are with their practical skills. Furthermore, we strongly advocate and teach our students to critically appraise the literature and reflect on their practice in order to ensure they are adhering to the principles of evidence-based practice. To that end, our curriculum includes a variety of teaching methods including online interactive content, a minimum of 40 logged hours of clinical practice with the support of a SI clinical mentor, clinical reasoning workshops, tutorial groups and peer to peer support. In order to ensure that our students are able to evidence and demonstrate the application of their knowledge regarding this clinical intervention, they undertake rigorous assessment which enables their employers to have confidence in both their knowledge and skills.
Those wishing to extend their clinical and research capabilities beyond the level of SI Practitioner undertake the final module to become an Advanced SI Practitioner and gain their Postgraduate Diploma in Sensory Integration. As an advanced practitioner it is anticipated that the therapist will engage with more complex clinical situations which require advanced clinical reasoning and assessment of risk and therefore students engage in advanced clinical reasoning workshops and undertake an additional minimum of 20 hours of logged clinical practice with the support of a clinical mentor and tutorial groups. These therapists also develop their education and leadership and management capabilities which equips them to build capacity and capability through work-based and interprofessional learning, understand how to evaluate service provision and present a robust business case in response to changing needs.
We welcome any actions that raise the quality of assessment and management of sensory processing and integration challenges for the benefit of the person and their family to live life fully and safely.