A global audience of more than 400 researchers, scientists and professionals joined the SI Network (UK & Ireland) on September 10 to 12 for three days of life changing learning at ESIC in Birmingham, both in person and online via live streaming.
The burning issue at the Congress was the growing body of evidence to support Ayres Sensory Integration being an evidence based practice, whilst at the same time the effectiveness of Ayres Sensory Integration keeps being called into question. The expert keynote speakers and therapists attending ESIC were on the front-foot when it came to presenting a strong case for ASI:
Professor Roseann Schaaf of Thomas Jefferson University led the pro evidence argument, announcing, “We have it!” She went on to demonstrate how a recent study, led by herself and Dr Zoe Mailloux into Occupational Therapy using Ayres Sensory Integration for children with autism, meets the criteria for an evidence-based practice according to the PRISMA guidelines (Adopted by the American Journal of Occupational Therapy), The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Council for Exceptional Children.
Professor Schaaf says:
”We need to get this kind of recognition from individuals outside and within the profession who’ve been questioning the value and efficacy of ASI. So I think it is a huge leap forward.”
Mag. Elisabeth Soechting, co-founder and President of the Austrian SI organisation GSIOe and PhD student at the University of Vienna, then unveiled her incisive review of studies into the effectiveness of ASI between 2007 and 2013. She found that three studies fulfilled the requirements of a Randomised Control Trial and that many more showed supportive evidence based practice for ASI. Elisabeth also discovered that over 50% of the studies that claimed to be evaluating SI, were in fact looking at sensory approaches, such as sensory rooms and did not employ ASI therapy: that is following Ayers principles as set out in the Fidelity Measure (2007).
Building on the identified need for more research of good quality, the SI Network took the opportunity to announce a series of research grant awards with a total value of £20,000.
Gemma Cartwright, the SI Network’s Research Development Director, says:
“Our challenge is to develop the evidence base for Ayres’ Sensory Integration including sensory strategies prescribed following a thorough assessment (Data Driven Decision Making Process (2104)). Doing this will help raise awareness, shape training and education programmes and ensure therapeutic interventions are accessible and available to any individual who may benefit. Without demonstrating ASI is a cost effective approach, with an ever increasingly robust evidence base, the application of ASI as an approach and an effective intervention will continue to be in question.”
For more information about the research grants please see here.
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Sensory Integration is based on the pioneering work of occupational therapist Dr A. Jean Ayres, diagnosing, treating and supporting those with sensory integration challenges. These difficulties can occur in combination with other diagnoses - including Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Co-ordination Disorder, (DCD/Dyspraxia), Mental Health and Regulatory Disorders including attachment disorder, self- harm, personality and anxiety.
Sensory Integration Network is the leading membership body and training organisation of Ayres' Sensory Integration in the UK & Ireland. The Sensory Integration Network professionally, sustainably and tenaciously campaigns for the needs of people who require sensory integration interventions and the therapists that deliver them. A not-for-profit organisation, the SI Network promotes the theory and practice of Ayres' Sensory Integration and provides courses including Master’s accredited training for therapists (OT/PT and SALT) in collaboration with Ulster University.