Alison Harris, Consultant Occupational Therapist and Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration, kindly shared her reflections and key learning points from the first international Sensory Integration Congress (ISIC), which was hosted in Cape Town, South Africa.
It was a marvellous experience to be able to attend the conference, surrounded by so many enthusiastic delegates. It is humbling to hear about the efforts therapists are making globally to provide therapy across huge areas of socio-economic deprivation, and to see single delegates, attending from African countries, who are so keen to share their knowledge and learn.
My highlights amongst so many wonderful presentations were:
Davor Duic’s presentation about Animal Assisted ASI in Croatia – using his fabulous dogs to engage and motivate children in their sessions – maintaining fidelity to ASI but also pushing boundaries to further develop wonderful possibilities. Seeing these lovely animals sit with children on platform swings, or even laying ‘on’ them to provide deep pressure was joyous and touching; the large therapy centre where this takes place is free to access and government-funded, which gives much food for thought!
I was excited to hear Dr Zoe Mailloux’s update on Ayres 2020 Vision with tantalising glimpses of information about the forthcoming EASI. The work being done is truly extraordinary and forward-thinking. Access to the test will be at no cost other than to provide the 3D printed materials and to gather easily and typically accessed items. What a refreshing change in the implementation of a worldwide standardised test! It was also great to see the innovations planned – of using shapes attached to drinking bottles for oral praxis and simplified ways of working with no more balancing a screen in one hand and trying to present test materials with the other!
Perhaps the most inspiring of all for me, was Janine van der Linde’s talk about SI in low socio-economic environments. In South Africa, the most wonderful play areas were being constructed – from old tyres, recycled bottles, timber – with the community getting involved to dig and form hills, balance challenges and provide wonderful sensory experiences for the children, without needing to seek out expensive equipment. It was a lesson in what can be done when there is motivation and free thinking.
The conference was closed by the much-loved Suzanne Smith-Roley – whose emotional thanks touched everyone. She gave encouragement for us all to persist in showing the world the possibilities of sensory integration and not to be deterred from our end goal.
With so much evidence of the efficacy of sensory integration available and in the pipeline, there is no excuse for us as clinicians not to persist in the difficult UK climate, where funding and commissioning are often highly challenging. We have an amazing worldwide family of SI therapists are working hard to raise awareness and the conference has certainly bolstered my determination to provide the right evidence to help children achieve their potential in life. Thank you SAISI for the wonderful congress organisation and for sharing the beauty of Cape Town.