My name is Pip Lenton. I am an OT and an Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration. I work at a national specialist college for young people aged 18-25 who have learning and physical disabilities. Students come to us from school or sixth form and the transition process takes place in their last year of school.
The essential part of the process is collaboration of all the stakeholders in making the transition as individualised as possible. The college multi-disciplinary team looks at the application information to produce an intake plan. If an individual’s sensory needs are highlighted at this point, I would become more involved in the intake process before the individual comes to college. I will visit them at school and sometimes at home to begin the process of creating a sensory passport. I use published assessments, but conversations with the parents and carers of the young people can be especially pertinent, as our young people’s presentation is not easily captured within most standardised assessments.
Young adults have sometimes found ways of managing their sensory processing difficulties. Increasingly, young people are coming through transition having had their sensory processing difficulties recognised and addressed at school. The parents and carers have a good understanding of their young person’s needs and I am careful to capture this information and communicate it to education and care staff.
There are still some individuals with sensory processing issues that have not been identified prior to their intake assessment. Signifiers that can emerge through interview, indicating possible sensory processing issues, include a dislike of bright lights, difficulty dressing, clumsiness, difficulties with kerbs, difficulties with personal care, difficulties with transition and with being moved backwards in their wheelchair.
The college education staff have received basic training in the sensory systems and how difficulties with these can be addressed within the sessions. Curriculum subjects offer opportunities for activities which enhance an individual’s sensory processing. These include horse riding, trampolining, forest skills, horticulture and adventure film making. Our PMLD students have a curriculum which aims to deliver learning through making the most of their preferred sensory stimuli. For example, a session called Sensory Wellbeing in which we focus on promoting ways for individuals to experience proprioception, vestibular input and touch.
The OT role in the first term is to translate what we have learned in assessment into practical solutions for promoting their learning with the ultimate aim of finding appropriate activities to promote lifelong learning through purposeful activities which also address the individual’s sensory needs.