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  • 24 Jul 2019 14:46 | SIE Support (Administrator)

    To All Speech and Language Therapists

    The National Sensory Integration CEN is now provisionally registered with the RCSLT, pending formal election of officers and adoption of the CEN Constitution at the first meeting.

    We have had to move the date to the following week because of room and date availability, but I hope that the new date will be equally (or even more) accessible to you. The new date for the CEN is TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER 2019. We are extremely lucky that Prof. Pam Enderby has agreed to come and be our Keynote speaker - and we're really grateful for her support! We will also be hearing from Gia Kuek who is an inspiring SLT-SI from New Zealand about how she combines SI strategies and principles into her SLT work. There will be lots of opportunities for networking - including in the evening after the CEN, so you might want to consider booking a later train home!

    The maximum capacity of the Conference room is 50 people, and so this limits us in terms of how many can attend. If you are interested in attending, please can you email me directly on Amy.Stephens@AChatterofMagpies.com and I'll put you on the list. When we meet, we can decide if we would like future meetings to be set up and organised differently. The RCSLT makes a very substantial reduction in room hire fees for CENs, but there is still a charge, and so I've suggested a nominal fee of £15 for this first meeting to cover the costs. I will place a listing in Bulletin unless all the places have already been spoken for before the listings deadline (so don't delay!).

    After this email, we are intending to switch to just using the CEN's mailing list rather than SIE's contacts - and so if you would like to continue to receive information about the CEN, even if you can't make this one, please don't forget to sign up to the mailing list on the link in this document.

    Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in October.

    Kind regards

    Amy Stephens MRCSLT

    Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist

    Advanced Practitioner, Ayres Sensory Integration

  • 22 Jul 2019 22:24 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Therapists interested in or already studying or practising sensory integration therapy in Australia and New Zealand now have a specific Facebook forum to share views, ask advice, seek support and network with peers already working or training in their region.

    We surveyed our members in Australia and New Zealand and they told us they would like to see a dedicated forum which represented the specific cultural and employment factors in their region. We hope to grow a thriving group that is beneficial to participants, but to do that we need you!

    If you are a therapist interested in finding out more about Ayres’ Sensory Integration theory and therapy, or perhaps you are already studying or practising SI therapy in Australia or New Zealand, then join us and join in today!

  • 22 Jul 2019 21:46 | SIE News (Administrator)

    A: Motivating children to eat healthier is certainly a challenge and, whilst allowing a child to go hungry might be heard of, and maybe even tried in our own homes, the results are inconsistent and the literature to support this as an evidence-based strategy for children with sensory integration difficulties is very limited. It is important to remember that children with SI difficulties may not perceive hunger due to difficulty with interoception, or the stress at mealtimes caused by over-reactivity to sensory information may over-ride the sense of hunger (check out this page for details on the senses and SI difficulty).

    A detailed assessment of the child’s sensory profile and ensuring that parents and any other adults who manage meals understand how this impacts on mealtimes will be important to avoid negative mealtime experiences.

    Some alternative strategies to trial, which reduce the risk of negative mealtime experiences, could be to:

    • Ensure meal times consistent of familiar foods alongside small portions of less familiar/new foods so successful eating is more likely to happen

    • Create appropriate opportunities to explore foods so the child can become more familiar with the sensory proprieties of the food away from mealtimes (eg, involve them in meal preparation or create opportunities to engage in play with food)

    • Avoiding snacking and grazing in between meals so a natural hunger develops

    As always, when working with any client with feeding and eating difficulties, if you have any concerns regarding weight gain or risk of malnutrition, it is recommended they consult their GP.

    Have you got an SI question for us on practising SI therapy in a non-clinical setting? Drop us an email and your question could feature in the September edition of EmphaSIze.

  • 19 Jul 2019 09:49 | SIE News (Administrator)

    The transition from primary (elementary) school to secondary school can be a daunting one for any child and even more so for children with sensory integration (sensory processing) challenges. Here, one parent sets out for us her recollection of her son’s struggle with this transition and explains how working closely with their occupational therapist (OT) and the school was the key to a better school experience for her son.

    Judith’s son, now aged 29, was diagnosed with sensory integration difficulties at the age of 12 years old:

    “Seventeen years ago, sensory integration was an unknown problem to most parents; even as a paediatric nurse I knew very little about the condition until my son’s OT assessment, plus my son’s condition at the ‘hypo’ end was rarely diagnosed. I have many memories of the problems he had as a young child but we always felt that everything was manageable until he went to secondary school and it was then, when everything came to a head, that we had him assessed.

    “If I had my time again, I would have sought help for him before he started secondary school. His poor memory and organisational skills meant that moving from a small primary school to a large secondary school was extremely stressful. Every day he would return home very upset; he regularly lost his way to the next class which meant he was often late for lessons. The anxiety this caused meant that he frequently lost his belongings and didn’t know how to find them. Added to that were his poor fine motor skills, which meant his work on paper didn’t match his bright, intelligent mind.

    “I still have his original OT assessment report and remember he received a block of sensory integration treatment to work on his proprioceptive/tactile senses. He was also given a writing slope which improved his handwriting. He found having some squashy balls in his pockets helped to give him more feeling in his fingers.

    “The challenges he faced weren’t obvious to the untrained eye, so we knew we needed to establish a close partnership between us and the school. Fortunately, our school was very receptive and keen to help. We shared the OT assessment with the school and this was the turning point. I believe that the single most helpful thing was that the school could now understand that he needed help in a more unusual way than most other children with specific needs.

    “The OT who assessed our son said that we should always remember that everything he did (being at the hypo end) required twice as much effort as anyone else would need. This made sense and I recalled that, when my son started primary school on only half-days for the first term, he would sleep for 14 hours every night!

    “He became very frustrated in his GCSE years but the school helped to remove or find a way round his problems. For example, they allowed me to help with posters, cutting, sticking, drawing, etc in some subjects because they realised his struggle with fine motor skills was causing him to become very anxious although his academic ability was never in doubt. He was also given an hour a week alone with a teacher to vent his frustrations.

    “So, if I could give one piece of advice to other parents of children with sensory integration difficulties, it would be to prepare your child for the transition from primary to secondary school and to work closely with the new school.

    “My son manages his life very well now, although he still struggles with organisational skills and has a poor memory. To cope with this, I have always felt, that he works very hard to achieve a level that most people take for granted and I couldn’t be more proud of him for that.”

    Sensory Integration Education would like to thank Judith for sharing her and her son’s story with us.

  • 09 Jul 2019 13:27 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Back in 2017, the private thoughts of a little girl with autism who struggled with eating went viral. At the time, Naomi’s mother Miriam Gwynne, a blogger on autism issues, had exhausted all routes to improve her daughter’s severely limited diet and sensory avoidance with food.

    Miriam writes that after struggling with food ‘from the moment she was weaned’, by the age of 8 years Naomi ‘only ate a tiny amount of foods’, had a BMI of less than 14 and was ‘dangerously underweight’, with the professionals engaging with her discussing feeding tube options.

    A pivotal moment happened for both mother and daughter when the editor of an autism awareness site that Miriam contributed to suggested that Naomi herself write a piece.  Naomi was asked to explain why she didn’t always like to eat, and what caused her to not like certain foods. Her response resonated with hundreds of thousands of readers across the world; with her mother who said that it ‘radically changed’ how she fed her daughter; and with therapists who re-committed to ‘listening, really listening’ to the individual they were trying to help.

    These are Naomi’s own words, first published by AutismAwareness, and republished here, in full, with kind permission from her mother:

    “Sometimes bedtime is the best time. It is the one time people leave me alone. They stop asking things like ‘Are you hungry, Naomi?’, ‘Would you like a drink, Naomi?’, ‘Are you sure you don’t want a snack?’

    “Why do people eat and drink so much, anyway? I have things I prefer doing, like watching YouTube and playing my own games with my toys. How am I meant to eat or drink when I am doing something else?

    “Sometimes people even want me to change rooms to eat. School does that. Why? I am comfortable and happy and then they make me move and my brain is thinking about where am I going, did I leave anything I might need, what if things have changed when I get back? What if someone touches something?

    “Those things scare me.

    “You want me to move to some place, sit down, and eat what you have made. But I didn’t ask for it. I did not know it was happening. No one told me I would smell different things, hear different voices and touch different stuff, and now you even want me to taste things?

    “It is too much, so I just freeze.

    “I can hear you, but everything is fuzzy.

    “I am so scared. I am scared that people are looking at me. I am scared everyone is going to talk to me. I feel sick.

    “Why do people eat funny things? People eat things with bright colours and I can’t understand that. My body is a pinky beige colour. That is a safe colour, like a light brown sort of colour. If my skin is OK then things that colour are OK, too.

    “But do you want to know why I still sometimes don’t eat things that are my skin colour? Well, it is just wrong. And my brain is all upset about food. When I play with my toys, they look the same, they stay the same and they act the same. Sometimes I eat something and it tastes nice; it is the right colour and it feels nice and soft in my mouth.

    “But then some days I eat what you tell me is the same and it isn’t the same. It is not the way I saw it the time I liked it. It does not have the same softness, and I get upset. You ruined it. Why do people do that?

    “I order my toys in lines so when I look at them they look the same. I feel safe like that. But you don’t let me do that with food. If I put it in order, it makes sense. I want to know it is ‘right’ and I need to check it. What if it is wrong and it goes inside me? That would hurt me.

    “That is why I have to have one thing, then another. My brain tells me ‘this is nugget skins’ and I remember what they taste like. You damage it if it has sauce or potatoes on it. Then it is not nugget skins, but some weird thing my brain does not know. So, all nuggets are dangerous. And I get scared again.

    “I like soft. When I chew sometimes, I get a little tiny bit to swallow, and sometimes a bigger bit. That means it tastes different and it does not make sense. Nibbling is safer. My teeth don’t want to touch stuff because then it tastes like teeth, not what it should taste like. Teeth is not a nice flavour. You know that because no one makes anything teeth flavor, do they?

    “I feel sick sometimes. Mummy says it is hunger, but I don’t get it. My tummy makes me feel sick and people say it needs food, but it already wants to get rid of what is in there so why add more? That does not make sense to me.

    “I don’t think people like me sometimes. They shout at me and keep making me eat. I get scared and sad: Please leave me alone. I like it best when mummy puts things I like near me when I am playing, so my toys can look at it and tell me it is OK. I know my world is OK then.

    “All day long people eat, eat, eat. And I get scared, scared, and more scared. I eat at breakfast and then you want me to eat again for lunch or snack at school, then dinner, then supper.

    “I want it to end some days. That’s why bedtime is the best for me.

    “Mummy asked me if I dream about food when I sleep. No way! I dream about trains. Thomas the Tank Engine is brilliant. He never eats, and I like that.”

    Naomi’s mother Miriam said after she had ‘read and reread’ her daughter’s words she changed how she approached eating with her daughter: “I took meals to where she was. I let her eat in whatever way she felt comfortable. I made sure food never touched. I stopped nagging her to eat. I bought and cooked what she liked the way she liked it. We stopped eating at the kitchen table and let her eat while watching Youtube or TV.”

    Seven months after Naomi’s insightful words went global and the ensuing changes introduced by her mother, Miriam reported that her daughter was on the 4th percentile (previously 0.74 percentile) on the chart for her weight and has increased the number of food items she eats from 4 to 20. 

    “My daughter still has an eating disorder. She still has autism. But we are making progress,” writes Miriam; progress which she attributes to that editor who first asked Naomi to articulate her experience of her eating issues in her own words.

  • 28 Jun 2019 13:14 | SIE News (Administrator)


    A:  Sensory integration is the process by which our body receives sensory information from the environment (and from within our own body) and then how the brain interprets and uses this information to help us respond to our environment. Children with sensory integration (sometimes referred to as sensory processing) difficulties can experience too much or too little stimulation through the senses and they can then over or under react to that stimulation. 

    Their brain may have difficulty with giving meaning to the information it is receiving. If these problems are with proprioception (sense of touch), a person can seem clumsy or use too much or too little force when doing things. People with visual perceptual problems may have difficulties with finding objects in cluttered environments, or finding a word on a page.

    People with sensory integration difficulties can experience sensory overload, which can be very overwhelming and distressing. You may be familiar with your child experiencing a melt-down after being in a highly-stimulating environment.

    Your OT will be able to explain more about how your child’s sensory integration challenges will specifically affect him. If they are not qualified in sensory integration therapy, they may refer you to a trained Sensory Integration Therapist who can assess your child, deliver SI therapy and provide recommendations for how you can help your child at home and school. For many people with SI difficulties, small adjustments to their environment or to the way they are allowed to move at school or at work can make a huge difference to how they manage their day to day life.

    Your SI Therapist can help you learn more about sensory integration, what the triggers are for your individual child, and design a ‘sensory diet’ routine specific to your child and your family. 

    Receiving a new diagnosis can be confusing and stressful time. This is a useful article (focused on ASD) on how to adjust parental and sibling expectations and also advice on how to build in time to maintain relationships, family traditions and a social life. Recent research reveals that many parents and carers can feel very lonely: reach out to others for support (such as our online community for parents) and information on practical local resources such as sensory-friendly events. 

    Have you got an SI question for us on Eating and Sensory Issues? Drop us an email and your question could feature in the August edition of EmphaSIze. 

  • 25 Jun 2019 10:01 | SIE News (Administrator)

    For individuals with sensory integration difficulties, (sometimes referred to as sensory processing disorder), attending a festival or concert can seem daunting. The crowds, restricted entry points, sound levels, flashing lights, unexpected events, large venues and different smells might feel too overwhelming a challenge. 


    But event organisers are increasingly looking at enabling access to people with sensory challenges, for example, here’s an encouraging account of how the O2 concert venue in London provided wonderful support for a young girl with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attending a Linkin Park gig with her mother.

    Alternatively, there are a number of events specifically designed for people with conditions that often coexist with sensory challenges, including ASD. A quick internet search found: A Different World Festival 2019, Spectrum Autism Friendly Festival, Spectrum - The Autism Festival, Inclusion Festival, and The AWESOME International Arts Festival for Bright Young Things

    Top tips for attending a festival or concert with a young person with sensory issues
    • Contact the venue in advance to ask what support is available.

    • Prepare by looking at images or videos of what the event might look and sound like in advance. 

    • Ask if the venue provides a social story which is a printable, visual presentation of what to expect at the event, eg, here is a social story for an Inclusion Festival in the USA.

    • Request access to the viewing platforms for disabled patrons as these will be less crowded.

    • Check with the venue in advance what can and can’t be taken onto the festival/concert ground so there’s no disappointment when something is refused or confiscated

    • Make use of designated calm areas, scheduling in regular breaks.

    • Taking into account individual needs, pack items such as ear plugs, noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, weighted blanket, familiar toys etc.

    • Make it acceptable to leave before the event finishes.

  • 20 Jun 2019 12:31 | SIE News (Administrator)

    To celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Yoga (21 June), we’ve had a look back at our SensorNet article on Mel Campbell, Occupational Therapist, Advanced Practitioner in Sensory Integration, yoga teacher and author.


    As an experienced OT and yoga teacher, Mel found herself drawn to the study of sensory integration (SI)  which fitted well with her interest in neurology. Mel told us that the more she studied the theory of SI, the more she found her two worlds of being a yoga teacher and an Advanced SI Practitioner merging.

    For individuals with sensory integration difficulties, (sometimes called sensory processing disorder) , SI therapists devise sensory diets. Through these personalised programmes, which involve various vestibular (movement/balance), proprioception (movement and resistance) and tactile (deep pressure and touch) activities, individuals can receive the sensory input they need to help them become focused and organised throughout the day. Yoga poses and exercises can complement and contribute to these programmes.

    You can see Mel demonstrate some of the yoga poses she uses to help people with SI difficulties on YouTube and her website.

    There are some informative blogs for parents, carers and therapists wishing to introduce yoga to their children. Five tips for teaching yoga to children with special needs, Using aerial yoga for kids with ADHD, ASD, and everything else! and The therapeutic benefits of yoga for kids are all by US-based OT and blogger Jamie Spencer.

    For those who prefer books, Sensory Yoga for Kids: Therapeutic Movement for Children of All Abilities is written by OT Britt Collins who guides readers on how to use yoga to help address SI difficulties, increasing body awareness and fine tuning coordination skills. Yoga for Children and Young People with Autism: Yoga Games and Activities to Engage Everyone Across the Spectrum by Michael Chissick is also relevant for use with children who have sensory processing challenges.  

    This beautiful BBC video shows children from a North London school for children with special needs explaining how practising yoga helps them to relax and expressing how much they enjoyed it. The programme has been so successful that the school is sending its teachers on a yoga teacher training course so that they can incorporate yoga classes into the curriculum.

    Research on the impact of yoga for people with special needs and related SI difficulties exists but more is needed. This research (1), published last year, compared the brain structure and function of yoga practitioners with a control group and found an association between regular long-term yoga practice and differential structure and function of specific brain regions involved in executive function, specifically working memory.  This literature review (2) of research on the benefits of yoga and mindfulness for youth with autism spectrum disorder acknowledges that the evidence is inconclusive but notes that all the studies reviewed demonstrated positive effects on social, emotional, or behavioural issues.

    1. Gothe NP, Hayes JM, Temali C, Damoiseaux JS. Differences in Brain Structure and Function Among Yoga Practitioners and Controls. Front Integr Neurosci. 2018;12:26. Published 2018 Jun 22. doi:10.3389/fnint.2018.00026

    2. Semple, R. J. (2019), Review: Yoga and mindfulness for youth with autism spectrum disorder: review of the current evidence. Child Adolesc Ment Health, 24: 12-18. doi:10.1111/camh.12295

  • 13 Jun 2019 10:40 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Sensory Integration Education’s partner, the UK’s Ulster University, has soared up the league tables for the 2020 academic year, rising up 34 rankings compared to last year.

    The tables, released by The Guardian newspaper, now rank Ulster University at number 59 in the whole of the UK out of 121 institutions.

    Ulster University is Sensory Integration Education’s partner in delivering the SI Modular Pathway: the first, and still the only, university-accredited postgraduate SI programme in the world.

    Speaking about Ulster’s success to Belfast Live, Vice Chancellor Paddy Nixon said, “Our philosophy is to put students and research first and the rankings will follow suit, and this has proven that it works.”

    Congratulations Ulster University!

  • 10 Jun 2019 11:03 | SIE News (Administrator)

    Research released for Carers Week 2019 (10 – 16 June) has found that unpaid carers looking after loved ones living with an illness, disability, mental health condition or as they grow older are seven times more likely to be lonely compared with the general public.

    Not having enough time, or money, to participate in leisure activities, as well as the stigma of being a carer, means one in three unpaid carers (35 per cent) are always or often lonely, compared with just one in twenty (five per cent) of the general population.

    Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.  This year, seven national charities have come together to highlight the urgent need to tackle loneliness and improve wellbeing among the UK’s carers, who all too often put their needs second.

    If you are a carer, you can access information and support via these charities.

    If you work with people with caring responsibilities, Carers Week are suggesting ways in with you can support them here.

    At Sensory Integration Education, we run a free Facebook Group for parents and carers of loved ones with sensory integration, (sometimes called sensory processing), difficulties. It’s a safe, supportive environment with over 2,000 people who can understand and empathise with you.

    Mind, the charity for better mental health, offers these suggestions for carers to help look after their own well being (see their website for fuller advice):

    • Talk about how you feel

    • Ask for help if you need it

    • Be realistic

    • Stay organised

    • Support their independence

    • Find positives in your relationship

    • Take a break and make time for yourself

    • Get enough sleep

    • Learn a relaxation technique

    • Look after your physical health

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