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Back to School

Love it or hate it, the new school year is almost here. We have asked some of our team of therapists and parents for some top tips on making the most of the new year

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-03 at 07.11.34Practice practice practice. There are lots of things you can have a go at before the first day, practice putting on and wearing a uniform, practice eating and packing a packed lunch or putting on PE kit. Practice walking or driving the route to school makes it feel familiar and less scary. Getting used to a good bedtime routine and school night routines and times, as well as what needs to happen when you get up so everyone can be out of the front door at the right time.


A fresh start –  A new year is an opportunity for a fresh start, whatever battles you’ve had are in the past with last years teacher or a previous school, take this chance to leave them there. Start with the expectation that you and the teachers both just want the very best for your child, to enable your child to learn and try new things.

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School routines – take time to go through the school day plan or timetable and help the child know what to expect each day. Make sure there is a timetable that your child can understand – with pictures or symbols. Include going to and from school and arriving on the timetable.

Get visual – Make it visual if possible, even for children who read well a visual timetable can be helpful. Visual prompts for new routines, packing bags etc. To help familiarise your child look on your school’s website, twitter or facebook page for pictures of the staff, the inside of the school and potential activities. Use a countdown visual calendar. Write / Draw ‘things to remember’ on a bookmark or keyring this can be routines or equipment such a PE kit, school uniform jumper, homework diary.

It is very important to make sure though that visual materials, however, contain only the most essential information – that they are clean and uncluttered, use sans serif fonts (like Tahoma, Arial and Verdana) as these are easier to read and use boxes, tables and clear spaces help information be more clear, with a logical order that is easy to follow.

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Communicate with school – Find a way to talk with the teachers and other staff at your child’s school. Remember you are all on your child’s team. Establish friendly mutually supportive communication as early as possible. Find out which method works best for both parties, it could be a home to school link book, email or regular meetings. Be as honest as you can, inform the school of any anxieties, no matter how trivial they seem.

Help your child to become independent taking their own worries to the teacher, and support your child to do this. It is important to make sure you do this at an appropriate time and not try to squeeze in a tricky conversation 2 mins before a class begins. Calling ahead or going back later in the morning often works better for teachers who need to start the day in the right way with the whole class, and will usually be able to give you more time if you go in much earlier or later in the day.

Review your IEP, sensory plan, sensory strategies and play plan or EHC Plan with the teacher – take time to review EHC Plan and talk to the new teacher about it. Again make time to do this not just quickly before or after school. book a time to see the teachers involved.

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Buying Uniform and School Clothes – Thinking about school clothes is important for transitions – trying on clothes and making a ” Getting Dressed for School Plan”, Using the word plan is important, as it links to being able to do things – haveing the idea or what to do, planning it and then doing it. OT’s call these three things the building blocks of praxis – our ability to do – ideation, planning and execution. Look for alternatives if tights, trousers, ties and shoes are hard to do up or don’t feel quite right.

Sensory Strategies and Fidgets to Focus can provide the necessary sensory input to help a child achieve a ‘just right’ level of alertness. Activities should be developed out of the child’s assessment, so providing the right input for your child at that moment in time. It is important to allow teachers permission to remove fidgets that stop helping a child to focus, and are distracting the whole class.  Unusual pencil grips, heavy art pencils, velvet touchy feely pencils, a pipe cleaner and bendy rulers are all desk appropriate fidgets.

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Virco Zuma Chair

Good sitting posture is necessary for writing, reading and eating – How people sit is essential to allow the body and arms to be free for work at a table.  Discuss the use of suitable seating like a Move and Sit Cushion or the Virco Zuma Chair with school, making sure feet can reach and are always firmly on the floor.



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Get “heavy muscle work” early in the day – Walk to school or make time to run and play when you get there. Walking to school carrying your own school bag can make a big difference in young people starting the day in a good place.  Getting to school early can mean having time to have a movement break in the playground or other indoor space on a rainy day. Ask school where you can do this on bad weather days.


Supporting your child after school – make sure your child can get some downtime after school, (making sure it’s not just screen time) to relax. Use afterschool and weekends as a time to do fun things including as much movement and heavy muscle work as is possible.

Do things together –  DIY, shopping, gardening, craft and eating and cooking together offers children chances to plan and do. Helping with planning like when making dinner involves reading but non-readers can draw their steps to favourite recipes and put them in order or you can take pictures while making dinner with them and put them in order later.

The same is true for almost all things we have to do around the home and provide children with ways to reinforce school skills including cutting and pasting, making, measuring, counting, estimating volume and size.

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More about how UK and Ireland therapists learning ASI can support the development of the EASI

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A Jean Ayres

The EASI has a strong foundation in the history and research that underpins Ayres’ Sensory Integration, with the development of the test being led by Dr Zoe Mailloux, Dr A Jean Ayre’s Research Assistant for the development of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests, published in 1989.

Like the EASI, the SIPT was developed with reference to an earlier set of tests, these original tests, the Southern Californian Sensory Integration Tests (SCSIT) were Ayres’ original tests for identifying sensory integration difficulties.

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Mandy, Zoe, Ros and Kath about to meet earlier this year to explore the UK and Ireland’s contribution to the EASI INDC.

Part of the development of the EASI includes the collection of normative data across the globe. This global project included the establishment of EASI U.K. and Ireland normative data collection team. This team is led by Regional Lead, Kath Smith, an ASI WISE Director alongside other ASI WISE Directors Ros Urwin (country lead – England) and Amanda Adamson (country lead – Scotland).


ASI WISE supports research in progress: the development of the EASI – a new set of tests to identify sensory integration difficulties. Currently, research and developments in Ayres’ Sensory Integration are very exciting, as a new test the EASI is being developed.

To date the ASI WISE team have helped to review items in development, creating a social media space to gather therapists trained in or learning ASI from across the UK and Ireland and most recently in developing the UK and Ireland contribution to helping international testers learn the EASI so normative data collection can happen.


black and white business career close upHere are some FAQ about joining the UK and Ireland INDC Teams:

  1. I’ve signed up. Can you remind me what level ASI training people need to be at? I’ve got staff that have done SI1 and SI2  or ASI WISE’s equivalent M1, M2 and M3

The testing teams will need other volunteers beyond the testers so all volunteers are welcome. Testers are likely to be more experienced in ASI assessment, but each tester will have a No 2 and other helpers in the test spaces will be assisting with the general running of the testing days including admin, support and keeping adults and children happy.  So it doesn’t matter where therapists are on their journey, they are welcome, as are enthusiastic OT Techs, teachers or others willing to give of their time.

2. I’ve signed up to the EASI project. Have further details been emailed yet?

The first week of September 2018 is the final push to get everyone who wants to contribute – those who have signed up should have had an email confirming this at the time and due to GDPR, everyone on the list will be getting an update at the end of this week.  The team are just catching any last minute joiners, who have only heard about the EASI on the most recent SI1 and SI2, and M1, M2 and M3 courses.

3. How soon will the EASI be available to use in practice?

The EASI will be launched at the ASI 2020 Vision event to be held in LA in 2020. We will share information about this as it becomes available.

4. Is it a waste of time learning the SIPT now if the EASI is about to be launched?

Most comprehensive courses training therapists to be practitioners of  Ayres’ Sensory Integration have historically taught SIPT administration, scoring and interpretation as a way to deepen earlier learning about the sensory systems and how individual sensory systems contribute to sensory integration. Doing this helps therapists new to sensory integration to understand the complex nature of sensory integration, to explore and understand sensory integration patterns identified in the research and seen in practice and how these ultimately underpin function and for some, difficulties in participating in daily life. Most modular programmes now teach about the EASI and its development alongside learning about the research that is underpinning its development.

Here is a copy of a slide from a presentation by Dr Smith Roley explaining the process of the EASI Test Development. Click here or below for the whole presentation.

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EASI Update

Therapists across the globe are collaborating, giving of their time and energy to develop a new assessment tool to comprehensively assess sensory integration difficulties.

This is the final call for therapists wishing to join the team for the UK and Ireland EASI ( Evaluation of Ayres’ Sensory Integration) normative data collection project. You can read more about this global initiative, Goal 2 of the ASI 2020 Vision here.

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See more about the EASI  – click on the image below or this link: powerpoint slides from Dr Suzanne Smith Roley.

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Introduction to the Evaluation in Ayres Sensory Integration® (EASI).

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Comprehensive, reliable, and valid assessment is essential for individually tailored, appropriate, and effective intervention planning and implementation. Research, education, and practice using an Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI) approach have a long history of prioritizing comprehensive assessment. To meet the need for a set of tests that will fully evaluate the constructs of ASI with psychometrically strong, internationally appropriate, and easily accessible measurement tools, the development of the Evaluation in Ayres Sensory Integration®(EASI) has been initiated. This article introduces the EASI, describes the overarching plan for its development, and reports the results of promising preliminary analyses of discriminative validity data.