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 News and Updates

  • 19 Mar 2020 11:00 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Is it possible for therapists to train online to become SI practitioners? That’s what we asked ourselves a few years back, as a training and education provider in SI Therapy since 1994. After careful research, we concluded that, yes, the taught component of education in SI could certainly be moved from the traditional classroom to innovative online learning courses incorporating videos, vignettes and interactive challenges, facilitated by support from an Advanced SI Practitioner eMentor and peer group - and all fully assessed to UK university standards.

    By combining this online learning with the important ‘real world’ application to clinical practice hours, supported by expert guidance from a Clinical Mentor, this two-pronged approach would offer students an incredibly rich and versatile training pathway. It's ideally matched to the ever-changing healthcare landscape. Today, our initial vision has become a reality that is proving highly successful.

    So, if you are an occupational therapist, physiotherapist or speech & language therapist, based anywhere in the world, you no longer need to take time out of your week to travel to a venue, sort out parking, accommodation, childcare, work cover etc. Instead you can access, 24/7, the very latest thinking and training in sensory integration theory and practice from your desk, sofa or kitchen table - with much of the content even easily accessible from your smartphone.

    You can network with a wide group of peers in your cohort to share experiences and ideas in a dedicated online forum.  You can ask for support and guidance from your personal eMentor (an experienced Advanced SI Practitioner) and be confident of a rapid response. You can submit your assessments online. And when it comes to organising how to implement your clinical hours of practice, we’ll give you suggestions of how to make it work in your particular setting and put you in touch with a team of Clinical Mentors to choose from if you don’t already have a suitable one of your own at work. If your clinical hours requirement falls within the period of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, we have agreed a contingency assessment plan with our accrediting university to ensure you will still meet the learning outcomes of the module and qualify as a SI Practitioner.

    We launched our first online training module in SI in May 2017, basing it on our world-class practitioner training that had been running since 2000.  Today, you can take our postgraduate online practitioner training pathway all the way to PG Certificate, PG Diploma or Masters’ level, depending on your aspirations.

    As a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to SI education and research, we have invested thousands of pounds and hours in creating, and continually updating, our online training in SI. The curriculum was designed by highly experienced educators and advanced SI practitioner clinicians, working together with international SI experts to provide student learning that is both clinically-focused and academically rigorous.

    It’s flexible, rewarding and innovative and has been carefully designed to build your knowledge and skills from SI Practitioner to Advanced Practitioner, and on to an MSc in Sensory Integration should you wish to progress this far.

    Each module you successfully complete gives you easily-transferable, academic credits. You can defer modules to suit what’s happening in your life. All modules are UK university-accredited and accredited by The CPD Standards Office. We even offer interest-free monthly payment plans and accept the following currencies: GBP, EUR, AUD, NZD and USD.

    Research (Dixson, 2015) shows that the most effective online learning courses include considerable learner-to-learner and tutor-to-learner communication: your online learning experience with us involves challenges to complete within your cohort’s online forum as well as regular contact with your eMentor. We’ve also found that genuine and ongoing critical friendships are forged in the forums.

    This is what one, initially sceptical, student fed back to us: “I was really concerned about doing online learning having done [previous modules] in the classroom. I have really enjoyed the learning method and it is working so well I would recommend it. I also love that you can access the taught information for a year so have the flexibility to back over things whilst cementing new learning into practice.”

    Find out more about your opportunities to begin your SI practitioner training journey with us here.

  • 18 Mar 2020 16:52 | SIE News (Administrator)


    Do you work with older adults? We have converted our workshop day on Applying SI Therapy Principles With Older Adults into a live online training day. You can access and interact with this live-streamed training event via the internet. Our experienced lecturer, a practising therapist, will present an overview on the ways in which therapists and carers can combine Sensory Integration therapy into personalised and everyday life activities for those living with organic brain disorders, such as dementia.

    You will be able to join in the discussion and ask questions directly to our lecturer by typing in the chat section of the screen and join in the interactive tasks. We promise it’s easy: you do not need to download any special software and you don’t need a camera or mic. You just need an internet connection on a tablet or computer and sound (speakers or headphones) to listen to our lecturer. You access it via your normal internet browser.

    At a time when care homes and facilities for older people are limiting visitors, we’d like as many people as possible to understand more about sensory challenges for older people and strategies for adjusting the environment, working with their sensory needs and use of age-appropriate equipment and ‘toys’. For that reason, we’ve cut the cost of our standard fee from £95 to just £45. For a live, interactive 5.5 hours of continuing professional development this is exceptional value - and available without the need to travel.

    Here are more details about this live event:

    Applying SI Therapy Principles With Older Adults - Live Online Training Day

    Friday 24 April 2020

    9.00 am (GMT) start. The course will finish at 2:30 pm. There will be 3 sessions of 1.5 hours with a 30 minute break between each session.

    Open to all, this training event will be of particular interest to occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists new to sensory integration, as well as nurses, social workers and other health and social care workers delivering therapy or care to older adults - particularly those with dementia and other organic conditions.

    • Learn about brain science evidence that supports the theory of sensory integration and sensory integration difficulties
    • The training day will look at how therapists can use their skills and knowledge in a range of settings including working in the community, care home and inpatient
    • Understand what happens in the brain and body in healthy ageing and in neurocognitive disorders
    • Develop the skills to identify behaviours which challenge participation and might be helped with a sensory integration approach
    • Produce personalised and individual sensory treatment plans embedded in everyday familiar activities
    • Explore ways in which the environment can be adapted, to be more dementia and sensory friendly spaces
    • Understand the role of sleep in optimising brain function

    Details on how to book here.

    Here is what some previous attendees of the classroom version of this course have said:

    “A very clear overview of sensory processing in older adults and what your role can be without being SI trained.” Clare Harrison, Therapist.

    “This course will definitely help you to better understand some of the challenges we face as OTs when working with people with dementia. Once you understand more, it is easier to put appropriate strategies and interventions in place and develop a better sense of what is appropriate and why.” Workshop attendee, Therapist.

    “It has improved my knowledge and confidence in treating patients. My patients will benefit hugely from the knowledge I have gained (in fact, they already have this morning!).” Alice Smith-Connor, Therapist.

    “I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It has given me skills and ‘fresh eyes’ to interpret observed behaviours.” Participant, Therapist.

    “The training was really helpful in terms of increasing my understanding of our client group but also my own professional development. It has enabled me to think about my clients from an SI perspective and consider that certain patients’ presentations and behaviours could be explained by sensory problems.” Participant, Therapist.

    “Definitely do it if you work with adults with special needs and dementia.” Alison Power, Equipment Designer.

    “An increased awareness of the impact of too much or too little re: sensory thresholds. And the use of proprioception re: SI approaches. Prior to the course I would have focussed more more on the visual and auditory!” Participant, Therapist.

  • 11 Mar 2020 18:04 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Hand washing is crucial in reducing the risk of contracting the Coronavirus (CORVID-19) but many people with sensory difficulties can experience distress or struggle with the experience of hand washing. We’ve collated some advice for encouraging and improving hand washing.

    People with difficulties with sensory integration or sensory processing can experience aversion to the smells, images, sounds and the tactile sensations of hand washing; have problems with balance, tone or co-ordinating their hand movements; or not understand the step-by-step process of hand washing. The following suggestions should be tailored to specific sensory challenges or different abilities and age groups, as appropriate.

    Explaining the Process of Hand Washing

    Use an illustrated guide to the process of hand washing to explain each individual step and help the individual understand what to expect. The World Health Organisation has published this step-by step guide to cleaning hands to protect against infection but there are also simpler guides, or social stories, that may be more useful with younger children. There are many to choose from online (seach “washing hands social story”) or you can make your own. Some individuals may have difficulty transferring skills learned from home to other environments: in this case it may be helpful to have a specific social story for both scenarios.

    Washing for Long Enough

    The NHS has provided this hand washing sequence using photos and a video which suggests washing hands for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Or you could count, use a timer or another song.

    This Washy Washy Clean video demonstrates the correct technique accompanied by a song suitable for young children.

    Prompting Hand Washing

    You may need to prompt hand washing at all appropriate times, either verbally and/or by gesture (miming turning on a tap and rubbing hands together). It may help to have a handwashing poster or symbol on display by the sink. If required, you may need to physically help the individual to wash their hands. Remember to promptly give praise and acknowledgement each time.

    Tackling Sensory Issues With Soap

    Find out if the individual has a preference for liquid soap or bars of solid soap. Find out if a particular smell is preferred or if they prefer unscented soap. Some people find it easier to manage soap when it is inside a fabric pouch so they only touch the soap suds and not the soap itself. An automatic soap dispenser which doesn’t require you to pump the soap may be helpful. If you find a soap that is better tolerated, include it in your sensory kit when away from home.

    Water Temperature

    Assessing a safe water temperature may be difficult for some individuals and they will need assistance. Some people may find slightly warm water more tolerable than cold water.

    Sink Height, Balance and Taps

    Use a step to enable children to reach sinks easily. Consider using a chair or safe stool if they find it easier to sit down whilst washing their hands. You can fit handle extensions to some taps to make it easier to grasp and turn them.

    Drying Hands and Noisy Hand Dryers

    Some people can be very sensitive to the sound of electric hand dryers in echoing bathrooms. You could reassure the individual in advance that they don’t need to use the hand dryers, if this is the case, but emphasise the importance of still drying hands. Use paper towels instead (you may need to carry your own supply). When visiting public toilets to wash hands, you could try using ear plugs or ear defenders to limit the amount of distressing sounds.

    When drying hands, some individuals prefer a slow, deep pressure with the towel rather than a light touch.

    Antibacterial Hand Gel

    If soap and water are really not an option or available, then use antibacterial hand gel. You may need to demonstrate how to use this and assist. Again, you may need to investigate whether scented or unscented ones, gel or spray ones are preferred.

    Hand Lotion

    Some individuals are distracted by the tactile sensation after they have washed their hands: investigate if this is eased by using a preferred hand lotion immediately afterwards.

    Seek Specific Advice From Your Sensory Integration Trained Therapist

    If your child has an SI therapist or SI trained occupational therapist, ask their advice on how to accommodate your child’s specific sensory needs when hand washing.

  • 01 Mar 2020 18:40 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    SIE Newsletter 1 March 2020: Mental Health 

    Welcome!

    This issue, we are focusing on mental health and sensory integration, including research into the comorbidity of mental health problems and sensory integration difficulties; first person accounts of experiencing anxiety and SI difficulties; and advice for parents, caregivers and therapists. 

    As a secondary topic, we're also looking at how to enable children with sensory sensitivities to properly care for their teeth and to improve the experience of having a dental check-up for these children.

    This month, there are a few dates that you might want to incorporate into your own client communications:

    • World Hearing Day , 3 March: the World Health Organisation will highlight that timely and effective interventions can ensure that people with hearing loss are able to achieve their full potential.
    • Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2020, 16-20 March:  a call for schools to acknowledge and celebrate the strengths of their SEN pupils.
    • Brain Awareness Week, 16-22 March:  a global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science. Every March, partners host imaginative activities in their communities that share the wonders of the brain and the impact brain science has on our everyday lives.
    • Swallowing Awareness Day 2020, 18 March:  RCSLT's  campaign to highlight how dysphagia affects people’s lives, and how speech and language therapy transforms the experiences of those living with the condition.
    • World Down Syndrome Day 2020, 21 March:  this year's theme is "We Decide",  and the campaign calls for all people with Down syndrome to have full participation in decision making about matters relating to or affecting their lives.
    • World Autism Week, 30 March - 5 April:  spreading awareness and increased acceptance of people living with ASD. There are lots of free resources on their website.

    Best wishes

    EmphaSIze Team

    Read the free Emphasize newsletter here.


  • 27 Feb 2020 20:32 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    Linking Neuroscience, Function, and Intervention: A Scoping Review of Sensory Processing and Mental Illness

    This research article explores the correlation between sensory processing and mental illness. The researchers charted the available literature on the subject and detected gaps in the current knowledge base. Results indicated that there is an evolving area of research using MRIs and electroencephalography that demonstrates a relationship between atypical neurosensory activity and mental illness. The research concludes that further research is needed to identify the efficacy of sensory processing approaches with adults with mental illness.

    Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders: Linking Motor and Process Skills, Sensory Patterns, and Psychiatric Symptoms

    In this study, researchers found significant relationships between sensory processing differences, skill deficits, and psychiatric symptoms in adults with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorder. They hypothesize that these differences and deficits contribute to decreased occupational functioning and performance observed with this population.

    Sensory Processing and Intolerance in OCD

    This chapter, in Obsessive-compulsive Disorder: Phenomenology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment,  reviews evidence documenting increased sensitivity to external sensory stimuli (auditory, olfactory, tactile) and reduced sensory gating in patients with OCD. In some individuals such sensitivity can present as a primary symptom.

    A Path From Childhood Sensory Processing Disorder to Anxiety Disorders: The Mediating Role of Emotion Dysregulation and Adult Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms

    This research article investigated the link between childhood sensory processing Disorder symptoms with an elevated likelihood of an anxiety disorder diagnosis in adulthood. The results demonstrated that individuals whom self-reported childhood SPD symptoms were significantly linked with a higher probability of a lifetime anxiety disorder diagnosis. The results also indicated that these anxiety disorders in adults may occur as a result of difficulties with emotional regulation due to life-long sensory processing difficulties.

    The Relationship Between Sensory Reactivity Differences and Anxiety Subtypes in Autistic Children

    This new research study examined the correlational relationship between sensory reactivity differences and anxiety subtypes in 41 autistic children aged between 3 and 14 years, using parent‐ and self‐reported measures. The authors found positive correlations between sensory hyperreactivity and total anxiety, separation anxiety and physical injury fears. However, when controlling for autism traits, they found sensory hyperreactivity to be related to physical injury fears and specific phobia, and sensory hyporeactivity to be related to lower total and social anxiety. The results indicate that sensory hyperreactivity and hyporeactivity might be implicated in specific anxiety symptomology.

    Association of Sensory Sensitivities and Toothbrushing Cooperation in Autism Spectrum Disorder

    This new research study compared tooth brushing cooperation at home and in a dental office between sensory over‐responsivity (SOR) and sensory not over-responsivity (SNOR) children with ASD. A cross-sectional observational study was conducted with 51 children with ASD aged 4 to 17 years. It was found that SNOR subjects had significantly higher scores in tooth brushing cooperation at home and in the dental office than did SOR subjects. The researchers found that oral sensitivity was significantly associated with tooth brushing cooperation at home, whereas oral, light, sound, and touch (face) sensitivities were significantly correlated with tooth brushing cooperation in the dental office. In conclusion, SOR subjects showed less tooth brushing cooperation than SNOR subjects both at home and in the dental office.

    Relationship Between Screen‐time and Hand Function, Play and Sensory Processing in Children Without Disabilities Aged 4–7 years: An Exploratory Study

    This new study explored the association between children's screen‐time, fine motor, in‐hand manipulation, visual‐motor integration, sensory processing and parent‐reported play skills in children without disabilities aged 4–7 years. An increase in screen‐time was associated with decreased visual motor integration, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, sensory processing, enjoyment of play and engagement in more complex play, such as creating stories. Playing with toys and using object substitution in play (e.g., a child uses an object for something else other than its intended use when playing with it) potentially appear to be a moderating factor of the impact of children's screen‐time on their bilateral coordination and visual‐motor integration skills. Clinicians can encourage children's active and dynamic involvement in games and play pursuits to counteract the potential impact of increased use of devices that involve screen‐time.

  • 24 Feb 2020 14:33 | SIE News (Administrator)

    A: You’re asking the right question! Helping your dentist to understand your child’s specific sensory needs should enable the clinic to make any accommodations necessary to improve the experience for your child.

    We’d recommend calling your child’s dentist, well in advance of your child’s check up, and asking to discuss how your child might react, suggesting what might help, or even organising a ‘practise visit’ where your child simply visits the clinic and is shown around to familiarise themselves with the rooms, equipment, lighting, noise, smells etc.

    You could also forward your dentist this informative article from the US-based Star Institute (written by Heather Miller-Kuhaneck, MS OTR/L BCP) to brief them on sensory defensiveness during dental visits. 

    The article describes how a sensory defensive child may react during a dental check up; eg, pulling away from or over-reacting to unanticipated touch; difficulty tolerating the overhead light; fear responses to the equipment, noises, scents and textures; over-reactive gag responses, etc.

    The article also suggests ways the parent and dentist can reduce sensitivity during the check-up: for example, by verbally telling the child what is about to happen before any action is taken; allowing the child to wear the X-ray vest during the entire appointment to provide extra weight and deep pressure; encouraging the child to brush their teeth using an electric toothbrush prior to the appointment to provide oral motor and proprioceptive input around their mouth, lips and jaw; letting the child wear their own sunglasses to reduce glare from the lights; asking all dental staff to use firm, not light tickly, touch when touching the child’s face, etc.

    You could also forward your dentist the link to this video, (also on the Star Institute website) in which Rachel S. Schneider, M.A. MHC, a mental health counselor and adult with SPD, talks about the experience of going to the dentist when you have sensory processing difficulties and the strategies that worked for her. 

  • 06 Feb 2020 12:05 | SIE News (Administrator)

    It’s a new decade and you have a new goal - to become an Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration! The following could be your new reality…

    • in a catch-up meeting with a colleague you confidently share a new piece of research on sensory integration, highlighting its applicability to a client but also an aspect that would need taking into account in this specific case.
    • during a session with a new client, you recognise a gap in their multidisciplinary team care plan which, if filled, would promote their ability to engage in your treatment and facilitate their independence. You’re able to argue for this additional resource, backing your case with a range of evidence.
    • you are invited to lead on a service improvement project that you’ve been keen to contribute to for ages.
    • you are asked to be an expert witness in a tribunal case.

    Becoming an Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration is more than ‘learning more about SI’: it’s about transforming your professional life by advancing your clinical skills within your particular setting and clinical population; enabling you to discerningly use and apply research in your day-to-day work life; and developing the confidence and ability to bring about positive change within your service. And it’s the integration of these skills that creates the Advanced Practitioner. Are you ready for the challenge?

    If you’ve already achieved SI Practitioner status by completing SI Module 3 on our practitioner pathway, then you are eligible to embark on the UK-university accredited SI Module 4: Advanced Practice. For 2020, we’ve completely rewritten this module using the NHS’s advanced clinical practice definition as our starting point:

    “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.”

    Your learning will be focused on:

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

    We recognise that therapists work in a wide range of settings and diverse populations and we’ve ensured the course content and assessment is appropriate for a variety of paediatric and adult clinical populations .

    Course content (around 30 hours) is delivered online via videos from international experts, videos from SIE Advanced Practitioners, animated presentations, case study vignettes, quizzes to check your learning, and independent study tasks. There are three clinically focused assessment pieces to complete. Our Advanced Practitioner Module e-Mentors will support you throughout and you can share questions and insights with your peers in your cohort’s forum. You’ll have access to the university’s library resources and student support facilities. You can also access downloadable transcripts of the course for offline study.

    In order to continue to advance your ability to relate the theory to practice and embed your learning in real life clinical practice, you will undertake 20 hours of clinical practice supported by a Clinical Mentor. You will need to have access to at least one client who would benefit from an Ayres’ Sensory Integration approach to intervention and for whom you can offer key aspects of SI management. If you can’t access a Clinical Mentor within your workplace, we have a register of AP Clinical Mentors whom you can book.

    Successful completion of SI Module 4 conveys 20 academic credits and Advanced SI Practitioner status. You will be listed as an AP in the Association of Sensory Integration Practitioners’ Register.

    The next cohort starts in March, so you’ve just got time to book before the 23 February 2020 deadline. Find out more now and you could qualify as an Advanced Practitioner this year. Now, imagine how that would feel.

  • 04 Feb 2020 12:42 | SIE News (Administrator)

    We’re delighted to bring you this post from Emily of the 21andsensory blog. A UK-based graphic designer, Emily is in her twenties, has a diagnosis of autism and sensory processing disorder and publishes posts and podcasts on ‘daily living as a sensory-being’. Here, Emily discusses her experience of masking:

    “So what actually is masking? Masking involves trying to hide being autistic so others will accept us. It’s also referred to as camouflaging. This means we act in ways that other people will think we are ‘normal’ and to try and be accepted socially. My doodle includes a few examples of trying to mask.

    “Over the course of my life I feel I have perfected the art of masking (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). I am extremely good at with-holding my feelings and emotions, bottling them up until I get home. I would cry when I had to go to primary school each morning. Then speed forward a bit in time and I’d come home from secondary school each day very tearful. I even used to cry up in the SENCOs (special needs support) room at break and lunch times because secondary school is quite literally THE most overwhelming place I have ever had to cope in . But slowly through sixth form and university I began to build up a resilience to the world and although I still get overwhelmed I can always come home, have a bit of a sensory meltdown (and a good cry) then move on with things.

    “Socialising will always be hard for me and I think I will always cope with the world like this. But that’s okay. I have to actively remind myself that ‘normal’ isn’t real. And I think you should too. Masking is an autistic and sensory way of coping with the everyday and just trying to get by. Now that is brave. To go out in the world and just exist is a huge thing.”

    You can follow Emily on social media: @21andsensory

  • 30 Jan 2020 13:48 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    The latest issue of SensorNet is now available to download for members.

    This edition includes:

    • The SI Education Autumn Conference.  We bring all the action to you: reflections, interviews and photos.
    • The Big Interview: Featuring Dr. Shelly Lane and Dr. Anita Bundy
    • International Sensory Integration Congress 2019. We have four of the presenters from the congress contributing to this edition.
    • Practice based Feature Interview: Greek Occupational Therapist, Maria Protopapadaki, discusses sensory integration intervention on a green care farm.
    • SIE Modular Pathway: SI Module 4 launches online.
    • SIE students.  We honour the achievements of our students and hear from Hannah Garry, who reflects on completing SI Module 3.
    • Research updates. References and abstracts for recent articles related to sensory processing and neuroscience

    Remember that the easy click-on links in the magazine will put you directly in touch with the editorial team and we welcome feedback and ideas for future editions. Thank you to all our contributors for this edition.

    Kind regards,

    Gina Daly

    SensorNet Editor

  • 30 Jan 2020 13:29 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    We have received the following information about a research questionnaire from Reading University School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences.

    We are currently looking for parents of children with sensory processing or sensory integration difficulties and therapists to take part in an online study “Parents of children with sensory integration difficulties: what helps?” which takes around 15 minutes to complete. If you are a parent or therapist of a child with sensory integration or processing difficulties, live in the UK or Ireland and are willing to complete a survey please click on the following links:

    For parents: https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/parents-of-children-with-sensory-integration-difficulties

    For therapists: https://reading.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/therapist-experience-parents-of-children-with-sensory-int

    Please feel free to forward the link to anyone who might be interested. If you have any questions, please contact s.c.f.allen@pgr.reading.ac.uk.

    This study has received ethical approval by the PCLS School Ethics Research Committee, University of Reading, project 2019-191-FK, end date 01-01-21.


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