Changing lives with trauma; Sensory Ladders, Sensory Strategies and Ayres’ Sensory Integration

Last week I found a copy of a therapy review that a young person wrote a few years ago.

“My sensory me is about me – and only me. It’s not about anybody else. It helps me be me.  I don’t worry about what other people think I should be. I am starting to like me now. I’m not so sad anymore. Knowing why I’m different helps me to not worry anymore, and it means I can say what I need.”

He continued “before people told me what to do and how I should feel, and what I needed. It didn’t match up with what I really wanted. That confused me. It made me worry because I kept being wrong. When I did things, people didn’t understand what ‘made me’ do these things. I could see that, but I couldn’t understand why.

I loved therapy and all the stuff we could do. Making safe spaces on my first session helped me know you really knew what I was feeling inside. That was a bit scary. It was like you were a mind-reader. Then I got to know it was because you know about the brain and the senses, and you watch a lot. We did lots of experiments to discover how my body works. I liked that. All the stuff we got to use, the big golden hippo, barrel and all the swings. I loved playing Harry Potter with you – with the golden snitch, the hats and the magic wand. The swing was my fantastic flying broomstick. It was the best part of all. I liked to ride it with my cat.  I really liked bouncing on the mattresses and trampette. And the hot chocolate with cream was the best.

It’s different now. I can stop and wait to find the words. Then I check it out. I have much less meltdowns. My Sensory Ladder helps me explain what is going on. I use it with my new Mum and Dad, my new Gran, my teachers and even my friends know that when I am a techy scratchy cat, then the snarly spitting cat is not far away and I need a sensory movement break.


And because of therapy, my body knows more now. I get it right more. I think I am just able to do everything easier. My new friends understand me better now. I don’t always get it right everytime.e, but it is better than ever before. I am calmer, clearer and concentrate better. I even join in with Netball now. My room is tidier now, and I can finally have shoes that have laces.

Thank you for helping me learn about how my brain is changing all the time.  It means I didn’t have to worry about how it was wired. I could just work on making new wires ready for my new life.

In the beginning, therapy can be really scary. You don’t want anyone to know what is hard. The book we used to get to know more about my senses helped me know it might really work when I didn’t know it would.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 10.54.00

Here is a copy of the James’ My Sensory Me document including his sensory strategies – made during OT sessions. We made his Sensory Ladder together so others would know how to help and support me at school and home. He used it and practiced telling people his story until he didn’t need to use it anymore.

His Sensory Ladder was printed off and made into keyring sized tags to attach to his pencil case, his Foster Mum’s key ring with copies on the fridge at home, on his desk at school and a copy went to his first visit with his forever family.

“Our Harry Potter Therapy was the best thing I ever did and I will never forget it. I believe in the magic.”

The first Sensory Ladder was made in 2001. It is reported in articles published in 2006 and 2009.

1. Brown S, Shankar R, Smith K, et al. Sensory processing disorder in mental health. Occupational Therapy News 2006; May:28-29.

2. Brown SShankar RSmith K2009Borderline personality disorder and sensory processing impairment. Prog Neurol Psychiatry 13:1016.

Thank you to James’ and his forever family for allowing me to share his story, with a few changes made to protect his identity.



Leave a Reply