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9 Stories of Adapting Sensory Integration Practice During the Pandemic

09 Sep 2020 11:28 | SIE News (Administrator)

For many of us, our jobs and roles as therapists have changed dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been embracing the changes as best we can to ensure that we can still reach our clients and families. In the latest edition of our magazine SensorNet, we’ve gathered nine stories, (from a range of settings), on how therapists are adapting their sensory integration practices in response to the pandemic restrictions.

To read the full suite of nine articles, see SensorNet issue 56 August 2020 which is available free for SIE members (and you can join for free as a Bronze member today). Here’s a taster of the articles:

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: How Can We Do That?

Amanda Howard, MSc BSc Dip.OT., from Therapy Foundations for Education tells us how their practice has adapted during the course of the pandemic and how they are still able to meet the needs of children and families who access their services. Therapy Foundations is a service that provides occupational therapy and educational support to enable children to become more confident and successful with skills they need to help them play better, perform better at home and school, and to communicate and develop social skills.

“The response to the current situation varies amongst those with whom we work with. Some children with autism appear to benefit from being at home and are more regulated. Telehealth has enabled us to support parents in progressing their development. However, other children who need and rely on routine are very dysregulated. For these children, we have returned to floor work especially rhythmic movements, grounding strategies and establishing routines to help them regulate and feel safe.”

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: How Can We use SI Informed Practice?

Mary Read, Occupational Therapist and Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration, from TakePart Occupational Therapy, shares her thoughts and experiences of moving forward and adapting her practice in a time of crisis and uncertainty.

“I felt more encouraged once I decided to stop myself ‘leading the therapy’ online but rather to support the parents regularly in their ideas of sensory rich activity and regulation within their own home settings. I have seen several parent’s own confidence and sense of agency increase greatly as they are facilitating and seeing the progress their own child is making.”

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: Learning Disability Service

Fiona Taylor, Occupational Therapy Professional Lead of the Specialist Learning Disability Service at Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust, shares how both herself and her team have been adapting their service during this global pandemic.

“A key observation we made is that individuals with some sensory differences which do not generally affect day to day functioning, have suddenly found their thresholds considerably lowered due to anxiety and lack of routine.”

COVID-19 - A Time of Change and Adaptability

Katy Hands, senior paediatric occupational therapist from the Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, tells us how she has been adapting to the changes which the COVID-19 restrictions have brought to clinical practice.

“By providing the workshop in a live virtual format, as opposed to filming and sending a link, this allowed for valuable clinical discussion with families where questions often arose around the most effective ways to carry out strategies whilst at home.”

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: A Specialist School

Kate Broughton is an Occupational Therapist and SI Practitioner (PGCert in SI) working as part of a commissioned health professional team at a specialist school in Norfolk.

“I have devised bespoke sensorimotor programmes for children to complete within their home environment. These programmes have been presented both visually (by using photographs of myself completing the activities) and with written instructions of how to complete the activity. Most families have received their child’s programme as a laminated, hard copy document for ease of access.”

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: Children’s Therapy Practice

“Live & Love It” is a husband and wife founded children’s therapy practice. The service is based at the Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration Studio in Horsham where they support young people aged 0-19 to Live Life and Love It! Clients do not require a diagnosis to access services though they do see a high number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyspraxia, sensory processing difficulties, down syndrome, genetic disorders and developmental trauma. Ashleigh Dick, Director, Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Advanced Sensory Integration Practitioner explains how they have been adapting their practice and meeting their clients’ sensory integration needs during this challenging time.

“[Play] comes naturally to some parents, but for others the prospect of creating novel play opportunities [during lockdown] was daunting. For these families, we provided play programmes founded in ASI theory; parents sent photos of their play equipment and the therapist provided activity themes and suggestions for each item.”

Adapting Sensory Integration Practice During a Global Pandemic: An International Perspective

We welcome back Mahek Uttamchandani, Neonatal and Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Director of therapy services in the Stepping Stones Paediatric Therapy Centre, in Mumbai India. Mahek kindly shared about her role within a neonatal unit in our previous edition of SensorNet and now we hear how she has adapted and changed her service delivery in light of COVID-19.

“Preparing to conduct the ASI sessions virtually requires redefining the structural therapeutic environment and creatively utilizing available space in the client’s home or immediate community.”

“I like to think the following mantra is very apt as we move forward through this new normal: 'Start where you are, use what you have and do what you can'.”

Pandemic Challenges in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Jacci Siebert is an Occupational Therapist (OT) of 26 years having graduated in 1994 from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. After 5 years working in a variety of settings in South Africa and the United States, she moved to the UK where she has worked in paediatric settings, community, education and private practice and eventually specialising in sensory processing and Autism Spectrum Condition in a special school setting.

“We have had some ideas about how we might provide further coaching for the affected babies and their parents covering topics such as ‘Serve and Return’ responsiveness, ‘Goodness of Fit’ reciprocity and co-regulation, however this is still very much in its infancy and at this stage we are very much going baby by baby.”

Adapting Practice During a Global Pandemic: The SenSI Clinic

Moira Veira, Specialist Occupational Therapist at SenSI Treatment in Norwich tells us about the practical implications, which the new COVID-19 restrictions have brought to their clinical practice. This demonstrates the creativity, adaptability and resourcefulness of how this practice has responded in a time of crisis.

“COVID-19 has placed more focus on parents delivering home based sensory sessions, using the equipment and garden spaces available to them, and as a result, we are seeing much more regulated children (and parents).”

Thank you to all our contributors!

To read the full suite of nine articles, see SensorNet issue 56 August 2020 which is available free for SIE members (and you can join for free as a Bronze member today).

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