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 News and Updates

  • 24 Jan 2020 13:53 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Consider your situation, right now, as you are reading this article. Say your goal is to get to the end of the article. This goal requires you to focus your attention: you may have reduced external distractions; you will need to manage any emotional or physiological intrusions that could interfere with your attention; and you will need to stay alert - so you may be sipping a drink or shifting in your chair.

    During these few moments, your central nervous system has been registering, integrating and processing a huge amount of complex information from your external and internal environment. The process is both “top-down”, as you consciously ready yourself to focus on the article, but also ‘bottom-up”, as various structures in your brainstem and limbic system monitor and respond to demands in your environment. Your body is doing an awful lot for you to self-regulate enough to simply sit still and read to the end of this article!


    But what do we mean by self-regulation? For our purposes, we mean the way in which we regulate our emotions, our levels of arousal, stress levels and levels of attention so that we can carry out the things we need and want to do in our daily life. Self-regulation occurs within our central nervous system and it includes both our ability to to consciously and automatically regulate our emotions, stress response, alertness and attention. It’s the conscious element of self-regulation which means we can learn strategies to improve focus, or help to keep us calm or alert.

    Sensory Integration

    What is the link between self-regulation and sensory integration? Firstly, a little about sensory integration. Sensory integration is a theory and a therapeutic approach originally proposed by Dr Jean Ayres. Sensory integration theory draws on evidence related to how the brain works and how neurons in the brain can develop new pathways and strengthen pathways through learning and repetition.

    The different parts of our body that receive sensory information from our environment (such as our skin, eyes and ears) send this information up to our brain. Our brain interprets the information it receives, compares it to other information coming in as well as to information stored in our memory and then the brain integrates and uses all of this information to help us respond to our environment. Therefore, sensory integration is important in all the things that we need to do (such as getting dressed, eating, socialising, learning and working).

    For most of us, the development of sensory integration occurs when we are young as part of our normal development and in the things we do such as rolling, crawling, walking and in play; for others sensory integration is less well developed – and this can lead to difficulties.

    Link Between Self-Regulation and Sensory Integration

    The association between sensory integration difficulties and self-regulation has long been of interest to SI therapists. And many parents of children with sensory integration, or sensory processing, difficulties express concerns about their child’s abilities to manage their emotions. A study by Cohn and colleagues (2014) found that 72 percent of parents whose children were referred to sensory integration therapy reported concerns for, or hopes of improvement in, their child’s self-regulation ability.

    Ayres identified that successful development of sensory integration underpins emotional stability, attention span and activity levels.

    Because tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems support the child’s ability to engage with their environment, Ayres argued that these systems also support development of emotional stability because being unable to properly engage with the environment would be a frustrating, overwhelming or disengaging experience. The auditory and visual systems are also important: if a child’s auditory or visual threshold is too low, they are more likely to focus on these sensations and find it difficult to pay attention and focus on other stimuli, impacting on their ability to focus and engage with the social world.

    Sometimes, our level of arousal can be very high:for example, when we are feeling worried, angry, stressed or excited. Other times, our level of arousal is too low, such as when we are feeling sad or tired. When our level of arousal is too high or low this can impact on our ability to do daily tasks. We need our level of arousal to be just right for that activity, whether it is reading, playing a game of tennis or winding down for bed.

    Sensory integration difficulties can lead to increased sympathetic nervous system arousal and a heightened stress (fight-or-flight) response.

    Think about a person who is under-responsive to sound or even a situation where you are so focused on what you are doing that you are not aware of sounds around you. Someone calls your name but you don’t notice. By the time the call has got your attention, they are so close and loud that it startles you, triggering a fight-or-flight response in your sympathetic nervous system.

    On the other hand, if a person’s central nervous system struggles to inhibit sensory information, such as sound, they would experience those senses more intensely than other incoming information. Situations that others would find non-threatening, would be for that individual very stressful. Think about a person who is over-responsive to sound or times when you are more alert to a sound, such as when you are convinced there is someone outside your home. Every sound then would alert your sympathetic nervous system.

    Research has shown that sensory over-reactivity and anxiety are found to occur together. And we understand that sensory reactivity can lead to a fight-or-flight response. This heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system can make it more difficult for a person to regulate their stress response.

    It is also important to note that a person who has needed to manage difficulties related to sensory integration all day, will have been in a constant state of fight-or-flight, and will have depleted resources by the end of the day. For example, an adult who has had to try to focus at work with auditory over-reactivity or the child with low postural tone who has had to sit still all day, will come home tired with their reserves run low. That child, struggling to self-regulate at home after school, could react by charging around the house, being over emotional and quick to react or be unwilling to do anything: they can’t modulate their responses any longer after having held it together at school all day.

    How Can SI Therapy Help?

    A qualified sensory integration practitioner can assess an individual’s needs and abilities and make recommendations for specific exercises and activities, as well as adjustments to their home/school/work environment, that can help support their self-regulation.

    A qualified sensory integration practitioner will have gained additional in-depth postgraduate training following their initial qualification to become a therapist. This training involves developing a detailed understanding of the neuroscience and evidence base underpinning sensory integration, as well as developing expertise in assessing and providing intervention for people with sensory integration difficulties.

    Want to learn more?

    If you are a qualified occupational therapist, physiotherapist or speech and language therapist and are interested in learning more about sensory integration theory and SI therapy, see our online, UK university-accredited modular SI practitioner pathway. Our Introduction to Sensory Integration Difficulties course is a good starting place.

  • 30 Dec 2019 11:38 | SIE News (Administrator)

    As a Sensory Integration Practitioner, would you like to take your knowledge and practice to the next level in 2020 by achieving Advanced Practitioner status? You can do this on Sensory Integration Education’s fully refreshed online SI Module 4: Advanced Practice, which has been designed around the NHS’s advanced clinical practice definition and, like all our practitioner training courses, is accredited by a UK university. The first cohort starts in March 2020: could you be on it?

    Working with and supporting researchers and practitioners at the leading edge of sensory integration, we invested a year of development in updating and reinvigorating our Advanced SI Practitioner qualification.

    SI Module 4: Advanced Practice will enable you to develop the knowledge and skills you require to become an SI Advanced Practitioner working across settings and clinical populations. In addition to achieving the advanced status, you can work towards a Postgraduate Diploma and Masters in Sensory Integration.

    We began with the NHS’s definition of advanced clinical practice, which has currency worldwide,...

    “It is a level of practice characterised by a high degree of autonomy and complex decision making. This is underpinned by a master’s level award or equivalent that encompasses the four pillars of clinical practice, leadership and management, education and research, with demonstration of core capabilities and area specific clinical competence. Advanced clinical practice embodies the ability to manage clinical care in partnership with individuals, families and carers. It includes the analysis and synthesis of complex problems across a range of settings, enabling innovative solutions to enhance people’s experience and improve outcomes”

    … and designed the module around these principles, enabling you to further develop your knowledge and skills gained from your PG Certificate in SI.

    Let’s look at the recharged course. The course is designed to train clinicians in the practical skills and activities of therapy as well as the principles behind therapy. There are three themes around which your advanced practitioner learning is focused:

    • Clinical practice
    • Clinical application of research
    • Clinical service development

    In order to support your advancing clinical reasoning and clinical skill development, you will hear from national and international experts, in addition to SIE-certified Advanced Practitioners. Our Advanced Practitioner Module e-Mentors will support your learning throughout. In order to ground your developing skills, you will undertake 20 hours of clinical practice supported by a Clinical Mentor. All learning is supported by high quality, specifically-commissioned, online learning content.

    Upon successful completion of the three assessment pieces, you will be entitled to use the title SIE SI Advanced Practitioner; gain 20 UK university academic credits which are globally recognised and highly transferable; and be listed as an Advanced Practitioner in the Association of SI Practitioners' Register.

    On a practical note, you can find all the information you need on the course here, as well as details of membership discounts and interest-free monthly payment plans.

    If Advanced Practitionership is your goal for 2020, we sincerely hope you consider achieving it with us!

  • 30 Dec 2019 00:29 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    You can find a round up of our recently featured journal articles below and kick off 2020 with some CPD reading.

    Caregivers’ perceptions of barriers and supports for children with sensory processing disorders

    This study explored caregivers’ perceptions of how children with  Sensory Processing disorders participate in community outings, strategies to support successful outings and if multi‐sensory environments mitigate participation barriers.

    Parent strategies for addressing the needs of their newly adopted child

    In this qualitative study, researchers found that difficulties with sleeping, feeding, attachment, and behaviour and self-regulation difficulties associated with Sensory Integration difficulties were the biggest challenge for parents of newly adopted children. Researchers highlight the role therapists have to not only assess and address these challenges but also to support families to cope with meeting the needs of their children.

    Health provider and service-user experiences of sensory modulation rooms in an acute inpatient psychiatry setting

    New research shows that the use of sensory modulation rooms in acute inpatient psychiatry settings is viewed positively by both service users and health care providers.

    Sensory Processing and Maladaptive Behavior: Profiles within the Down Syndrome Phenotype: Applying Findings to Practice

    In this research paper, Occupational Therapist, Renee Watling explores the relationship between sensory processing and maladaptive behaviours in relation to Down Syndrome. Though maladaptive behaviours as a result of sensory processing difficulties may impact on daily life occupations, they also may serve a positive function including escape, attention etc. Gaining an insight into the association of sensory processing and maladaptive behaviours supports the understanding of the potential factors instigating the behaviour, which may support targeted interventions.

    Cultural Adaptation of the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile for Spain

    Results for this study indicate that the Spanish version of the Adolescent/Adult Sensory Procession is conceptually and semantically equivalent to the original version. Great to see sensory assessment tools being made more accessible internationally.

    Connections Between Sensory Sensitivities in Autism; the Importance of Sensory Friendly Environments for Accessibility and Increased Quality of Life for the Neurodivergent Autistic Minority

    This literature review looks at the importance of sensory friendly environments to improve accessibility and subsequently quality of life for individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder who have difficulties with Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration.

    The role of sensory processing difficulties, cognitive impairment, and disease severity in predicting functional behavior among patients with multiple sclerosis

    In one of the first studies to investigate sensory processing in people with multiplesclerosis (MS), researchers found that this population experiences difficulties with registering and modulating sensory input. These difficulties were found to impact on ability to perform activities of daily living and may be a marker of disease severity.

    Auditing Learning Environments from a Sensory Perspective

    Here, a university team present their process of auditing their learning environment from a sensory perspective and make recommendations on how to make the environment more accessible for those who have difficulties with Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration.

    Somatosensory Discrimination in People With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Scoping Review

    This recently published scoping review in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy offers an excellent overview of somatosensory functioning, its role in child development and its prevalence in the ASD population.

    Associations Between Meaning of Everyday Activities and Participation Among Children

    The subjective meaning that people attach to their occupations may explain the association among participation, health, and well-being - but most studies have been on adults, and the ones on children have been mostly qualitative studies. This recent study aimed to explore the perceived meaning that typically developing children attribute to their everyday activities and to assess the correlations between children’s perceived meaning and their participation as assessed by parents. It found that children aged 6-12 were able to reflect on the meaning of their everyday activities and the researchers suggested that the Perceived Meaning of Occupation Questionnaire (PMOQ) was a useful tool for facilitating this and that it could be a useful for engaging young children in setting meaningful goals for therapy.

    Addressing Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Disorders Across the Lifespan: The Role of Occupational Therapy

    This is a great fact sheet from American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

  • 29 Dec 2019 20:31 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    Have you thought of making New Year Resolutions to reinvigorate your sensory integration therapy practice? You spend a large proportion of your life at work, so why not focus on making it the best experience possible for you and your clients and colleagues. We’ve suggested some areas below but we’d love to hear your career resolutions too!

    1. Stop procrastinating.

    If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do to enhance or change your career, write a list of steps you are going to take to achieve it, and commit to taking action on a step a day or week as appropriate. Research that area. Book that course. Apply for that position.

    2. Meet new people.

    New people bring new opportunities. Overcome your shyness and make time to network (virtually or in real life) with people in your field or the field that you aspire to. You might even have fun! If you want to dip your toe in the water with online networking, we have a friendly, professional and inspiring community of people on our Facebook SI Groups and we host an annual SI Autumn Conference in the UK for sensory integration students and therapists.

    3. Volunteer.

    Can you use your skills (career or otherwise) to volunteer at a local group, home, shelter or school? Ensure any work you do is covered by your professional insurance. Volunteering is a great way to boost your esteem, confidence and CV whilst giving back to your community.

    4. Set yourself career goals.

    You set your clients goals within therapy because you know that it helps to track progress and motivate, but do you set yourself small, manageable career goals, specific to you, that build to a big achievement? Come on, grab a pen and set down your long-term goal, with the measurable outcome and the timeframe for achieving it. Then write down the short-term goals (with specific details and time frames) that will support you in achieving your long-term goal. Now put this list somewhere you will see it every day to remind you of your direction and commitment.

    5. Get involved in research.

    Contributing to your field’s body of evidence and seeing your name listed in a published article is pretty thrilling and rewarding. Sensory Integration Education offer support and advice for SI researchers as well as the opportunity to pursue a UK university accredited MSc in Sensory Integration which involves engaging in an independent piece of research activity under the guidance of a supervisor.

    6. Remember self-care.

    The very nature of your job involves being an active listener which can be draining if you don’t have an adequate debriefing process. Your workplace should have appropriate provision for staff’s mental wellbeing: if it does, get involved; if it doesn’t, lobby for it. If you work for yourself, then building time in your working week to reset your mind and body will pay dividends.

    7. Make CPD fun!

    Set out your continuing professional development goals for the year. Check what your professional body’s CPD requirements are (and the level of evidence required) then set goals that support your wider career goals. If you can make them enjoyable, you’re more likely to achieve them. Are you looking to keep up with the latest research (ahem, such as listed in our monthly newsletter EmphaSIze, biannual magazine SensorNet, and daily social media posts)? Get a research buddy or two, then agree to read the same article or book each week and discuss it (over a coffee, online, it really doesn’t matter as long as you do it).

  • 13 Dec 2019 10:04 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Who doesn't need a little inspiration now and again? Over on our social media channels, we are posting 12 Days of SI Inspiration.  In case you don't follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Linkedin, here is our festive offering to the wonderful sensory integration community:

  • 04 Dec 2019 11:06 | SIE Support (Administrator)

  • 04 Dec 2019 10:59 | SIE Support (Administrator)


    Sensory-based gift ideas. A reflection on the Autumn Conference. Legacy Award Winners announced. An update on the EASI project. And a special Christmas giveaway! As well as our usual selection of SI research, jobs, resources, books and products. This really is a bumper edition of EmphaSIze.

    If you didn't manage to join us in our Silver Jubilee celebrations at the SIE Autumn Conference last month, look out for the a full write-up on the speakers, presentations and event in the next issue of our magazine SensorNet.

    Best wishes

    EmphaSIze Team

    PS. Be sure to follow along on our social media channels as we'll be signposting you to lots of festive SI inspiration and advice.

    Click here to see our December edition

  • 26 Nov 2019 13:50 | SIE News (Administrator)

    A: The excitement and chaos of Christmas can be overwhelming for a lot of children and certainly even more so for those with sensory integration difficulties.

    In the build up to Christmas, be mindful of the type and how many Christmas decorations you have at home: scented candles, natural Christmas trees, flickering lights, reflective tinsel, baubles and musical ornaments can be a lot of additional visual, auditory and olfactory sensory information your son doesn’t normally need to process at home - and may contribute to sensory overload. Consider more subtle decorations or, if you can, involve your children in making homemade Christmas decorations they can display proudly around the house!

    On the day itself, make it a Christmas day that works for your family. Keep routine activities, eg, getting up, bath times and meal times, at the same time as this predictability can be helpful in maintaining an active-calm level of arousal. Also, think about what your son does on a typical day and when and how he currently accesses the sensory feedback he needs to modulate. Does he play with particular toys? Spend time outside? Use particular equipment? If possible, ensure these activities still happen.

    Finally, Christmas dinner should be a special meal which everyone is looking forward to so,with that in mind, ensure that your son has his preferred foods on the day. Food restrictions due to sensory integration difficulties can be really challenging and, therefore, it would be better to work with a trained sensory integration practitioner to assess and address this in detail rather than focusing on strategies that may or may not work on one particular day.

    We hope Christmas Day goes smoothly for you and your family!

  • 26 Nov 2019 13:17 | SIE News (Administrator)

    The 2019 Legacy Awards, celebrating achievement and nurturing talent in the sensory integration community, were announced at the SIE Autumn Conference, held in Birmingham in November.

    Part of our Legacy Project, in acknowledgement of and gratitude to those who introduced Ayres’ Sensory Integration to the UK and Ireland in the 1970s and those who have worked to shape training and practice since that time, the Legacy Awards this year honoured:

    Honorary Fellowship Award - Dr Greg Kelly

    Course Director for the Ulster University PGCert, PGDip and MSc Pathway, Ulster University

    Dr Greg Kelly received an SIE Honorary Fellowship for sustained commitment to developing SI theory and practice in the UK, Ireland and beyond, over a 40-year period and for his outstanding leadership in providing university-accredited SI training, since the MSc in SI was launched in 2011.

    Greg’s interest in SI dates back to 1979 when he was working as an OT in a psychiatric hospital and read an article by King (1977). A year later when working with children in a speech and language assessment unit, he began to explore using SI with the support of his speech and language therapist colleagues. No formal SI courses were available locally at that time though so he developed his own knowledge by reading widely and practising delivering SI using home-made equipment.

    Spurred on by some amazing results, he purchased the Southern California SI tests and Post Rotary Tests, writing to Jean Ayres to ask permission to use them without any formal training. Jean Ayres wrote back saying he didn’t need permission and wished him luck.

    Greg then formed an SI study group with others (including Eadaoin Breathnach) to teach himself the basics. This then became affiliated with the Scottish-based study group on perception and then in 1990 the Irish SI Association was formed. And as courses and workshops became available, he took every opportunity to attend these, in the UK and beyond.

    Greg also completed a degree in psychology and an MSc, and in 1987 became a lecturer in OT at Ulster University. His published works inspired others to begin learning about SI principles and to go on to develop theory and practice further for themselves. His dedication to promoting SI theory and practice continued throughout the 1990s with the different study groups eventually merging to form the organisation we are all part of today, the SI Network UK and Ireland (now branded Sensory Integration Education).

    For a while, Greg stepped back from SI to complete a PhD, but in 2010, when we invited higher education institutions to tender for accreditation of our SI course, his passion for SI was reignited and he led a team to submit a bid proposing that the SI training pathway would no longer end with the award of PG Cert, but would also reach PG Diploma and Masters levels too. The bid was successful and in 2011 the MSc pathway was initiated.

    Greg remains the Course Director of the MSc in SI Pathway today, supporting students from all over the world, to complete university-accredited SI training. The Ulster/SIE joint pathway is the only one of its kind in Europe, attracting students worldwide. He is an outstanding pioneer, innovator and change-maker for SI in the UK, Ireland and beyond and a very deserving recipient of an honorary SIE Fellowship Award.

    Outstanding students from the 2018/19 academic year

    When the Legacy Project was initiated, it was agreed that in honour of two of the early pioneers of ASI in the UK and Ireland, bursaries will be awarded annually to the PGCert and PGDip Outstanding Students of the Year. This year we added a third award for MSc Outstanding Student of the Year.

    The Elizabeth Fairgrieve Award for the Postgraduate Certificate in Sensory Integration Outstanding Student of the Year - Tania Slavin

    The Elizabeth Stephenson Award for the PG Dip in SI Outstanding Student of the Year - Laura Osman

    The Dr Greg Kelly Award for the MSc in Sensory integration Outstanding Student of the Year - Claire Stokes

    Advanced Practitioner certificates

    We were delighted to convey Advanced Practitioner status and certificates to 35 SI students at the Autumn Conference.

    Remember, you can use the Association of SI Practitioners' Register to search for who have gained SI qualifications on SIE’s UK-university-accredited SI Modular Pathway. 

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