Hi! My name is Orla, and I am a children’s occupational therapist and advanced sensory integration practitioner.
My journey into sensory integration (SI) began in 2013 whilst working in the Western Isles, Scotland. I had previously worked with SI trained therapists in Philadelphia which had peaked my interest, so when the opportunity arose for me to go to Birmingham to complete module 1, I jumped at the chance.
At this time I was working in the Western Isles, across a number of different islands. The caseload was therefore varied, but I worked with a large number of children who had various sensory integration deficits and needs.
I was lucky enough to be able to continue my journey through to SI module 4 while working in Scotland, and found that the learning really changed the way that I practiced, and the lens through which I was able to see children’s difficulties. It definitely helped my clinical reasoning skills to develop and evolve. I then decided to continue through the MSc pathway, eventually completing my dissertation while on maternity leave last year. I have always loved the energy, creativity and fun involved in working with children.
I have worked for the NHS for six years now. I spent five years working in the Western Isles, before moving closer to my family last year. I now work in Northern Ireland, in a fascinating new role on a neonatal intensive & special care unit. My post is split between neonatal and complex health needs, which tie in nicely together as I can follow up on the babies following discharge, where they have complex health needs.
Principles of SI theory and practice guide my clinical reasoning and decision making on a daily basis, and I find the link between sensory integration and development within the neonatal unit particularly fascinating and interesting. The sensory experiences of baby in the NICU are very different from a baby in-utero, or from a baby born at full term. One of our key roles in the neonatal setting is to minimize as much as possible the impact of sensory experiences (light, noise, painful procedures, positioning, touch, smell) on a baby’s underdeveloped sensory system, and to promote appropriate sensory input for each individual baby’s gestational age and situation.
My SI journey continues as a mentor on the online module 2 course, which keeps me on my toes, and up-to-date with new models and concepts. I have also recently taken on the role of Communications Lead for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Northern Ireland Region. I am always keen to promote our profession, and especially so coming up to Occupational Therapy Week!