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Research Update: Sensory sensitivity and its relationship with adult attachment and parenting styles

“I was reflecting on the original ASI in MH case study I used when teaching about SI application in MH at a DBT Conference.

Convincing others SI was relevant beyond childhood and to my DBT colleagues in psychiatry in 2002 was a very tricky thing then. Wish I’d known then I’d be reading this today! How times have changed. “

Parenting styles vary in levels of both warmth and control, with evidence that type of parenting behavior is linked with social-emotional and other developmental outcomes for children. There are well-established associations between adult attachment and parenting styles. Given emerging evidence that people with different attachment patterns vary in how they receive and modulate sensory information, there are potential implications for parenting which have rarely received research attention. This cross-sectional study investigates the links between parenting style and parental sensory sensitivity, and the possible mediating role of parental sensory sensitivity in the relationship between adult attachment and parenting styles. A convenience sample of 155 parents of children aged 4–12 years old completed an online survey measuring: adult attachment (Experiences in Close Relationships-Modified 16-item Scale), sensory sensitivity (Highly Sensitive Persons Scale-Shortened Version), and parenting styles (Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire). Correlation, regression and mediation analyses were conducted. Analyses revealed that parents who reported more attachment insecurity also reported higher levels of parental sensory sensitivity, and more authoritarian and/or permissive (non-optimal) parenting styles. Parental sensory sensitivity was found to fully mediate the relationship between attachment avoidance and permissive parenting, and to partially mediate the relationship between attachment anxiety and both authoritarian and permissive parenting. This study represents the first quantitative evidence for associations between parental sensory sensitivity and parenting styles, and the mediating effect of parental sensory sensitivity on the known relationship between attachment insecurity and parenting. Awareness of a parent’s level of sensory sensitivity, in addition to his/her attachment style, may assist in developing effective strategies to meet both the parent’s and child’s needs and support the parent-child relationship.

Read more here:

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Research Update : Decoding Touch Sensitivity in Autism

“The inability to tolerate light touch is a telltale feature of autism and one of the disorder’s many perplexing symptoms. It has defied treatment and its precise origins have remained somewhat of a mystery.

Now, a study led by investigators at Harvard Medical School’s Blavatnik Institute has not only identified the molecular aberrations that give rise to heightened touch sensitivity in autism spectrum disorders but also points to a possible treatment for the condition.”

Read more here

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Keeping little ones barefoot can encourage a strong foundation for optimal development of the brain and nervous system.

Rather than buying expensive baby shoes, keeping little ones barefoot whenever safe and possible will encourage the development of their nervous systems. Read more in this article by Kacie Flegal, D.C.  here

toddler climbing on wall

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Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy and Parents.

Does Ayres’ Sensory Integration only recently encompass working in collaboration with parents? No.

Jean A Ayres absolutely recognised the importance of empowering parents and parent education to most effectively help children with sensory integration difficulties. She absolutely understood the value of psycho-education and what parents can do at home.

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from Sensory Integration and the Child, Ayres 1979.

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What’s the SP3D?

We have had many members ask questions about this new assessment that was presented at ESIC this year. It was available at ESIC on  pre-order through WPS, the company that also sells the SIPT Test.

The test is based on the Miller 2007 SPD “New Nosology”. UK normative data does not yet exist for this test, and the normative data collection is currently being undertaken in the USA.

Sensory Processing 3 Dimensions (SP3D) Assessment. The SP3D Assessment is an unpublished performance measure of sensory modulation, sensory-based motor disorder, and sensory discrimination disorder. It consists of activities similar to those encountered in daily life, specifically designed to elicit typical and atypical behavioral responses to sensation. The assessment provides structured opportunities and specific scoring criteria on which to base one’s determination of sensory processing status.

The activities on the assessment include those previously tested for reliability and Published by ScholarWorks at WMU, 2018 5 The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, Vol. 6, Iss. 1 [2018], Art. 4 validity on the Sensory Overresponsivity scale (Schoen, Miller, & Green, 2008) as well as items that elicit sensory underresponsivity and sensory craving (Schoen et al., 2014) and new items tapping postural disorder, dyspraxia, and discrimination problems. Preliminary evidence supports the internal consistency reliability and discriminant validity of the scale as well as supporting the underlying structure of the behavioral scoring categories (Schoen et al., 2014).

taken from Schoen et al 2018

At ESIC 2019 held in Greece this year, Ros Urwin an ASI Wise Director attended the presentation about this new tool. She has shared her photos about the this new tool with the team at ASI Wise.

We have found these publications relating to the SP3D useful to help us know more about this new tool that we hope to try out later this year.


Introduction to this new test


Identification of Sensory Processing and Integration Symptom Clusters: A Preliminary Study


A Retrospective Pre-Post Treatment Study of Occupational Therapy Intervention for Children with Sensory Processing Challenges


Reliability Study

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Photo’s taken by ASI WISE Director Ros Urwin, who attended ESIC 2019 as our representative.

Coming soon updates about other existing assessment tools and those being developed, including the EASI.

ASI WISE recommends that therapists still learn the SIPT – not to just have a tool to use – but to really to deepen their knowledge and learning about the sensory systems and patterns of difficulty seen across our clinical populations, from a tool with a robust history and evidence base. Read more here: Why learn the SIPT when the EASI is in development and about to be published, I don’t want to waste my money?

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What is Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy?

At ASI Wise, to avoid confusion, we use the term sensory integration and processing difficulties. Different terms are used in different places to describe sensory integration difficulties. Some therapists may use sensory processing difficulties instead. Some may even use sensory processing disorder.

We currently have a robust test,  the SIPT, that allows us to describe sensory integration difficulties and reference research evidence to interpret the unique scores and pattern of scores that the child gets across 17 test items. We can use this data to inform our clinical reasoning, create a hypothesis about what sensory difficulties are contributing to participation challenges in everyday life. We set goals, plan and deliver the intervention, Ayres’ Sensory Integration Therapy measuring therapy outcomes. This is best practice.

“Active, individually tailored, sensory motor activities contextualised in play at the just right challenge, that targets adaptive responses for participation in activities and tasks.”

ESIC Schaaf 2019

Ayres’ Sensory Integration assessment and therapy is typically post-graduate education for Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech and Language Therapists. Please check that your therapist has ASI Education that meets level 2 education standards as recommended by ICEASI.

For more information about programmes offering Certification in Ayres’ Sensory Integration across the globe, please visit


Thank you Saša Radić – Kabinet aRTisINCLudum aRTis INCLudum for sharing these.

Read “Occupational Therapy Interventions for Children and Youth With Challenges in Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing: A School-Based Practice Case Example”  – one young person’s story from AJOT May 2019 here. [Frolek Clark et al 2019].

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Research update: Forest design for mental health promotion—Using perceived sensory dimensions to elicit restorative responses

Forest design for mental health promotion—Using perceived sensory dimensions to elicit restorative responses, research into the qualities of the natural environment which promote restoration

forest design for mental health promotion - research update

download full article – open access pdf here  


gray bridge and trees


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An introduction to Ayres’ Sensory Integration

Sensory integration…the ability to organize sensory information for use…perception and synthesis of sensory data that enables man to interact effectively with the environment.’

Jean. A. Ayres (1972)

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Ayres’ Sensory Integration combines theories and concepts from human development, current neuroscience, psychology with occupational science into a holistic framework through which we can consider a person’s development, learning and behavior. 

Integrating sensory input is essential for development, it underpins learning and ensures we can participate in daily life, helping us to ;

  • make sense of and join together cues in the environment
  • ‘do the right thing at the right time and in the ‘just right’ way’ – moving and using our bodies to get things done
  • be aware of what goes on within our own bodies;
  • know who we are – where we stop and start and where others begin
  • manage emotions and self -regulate
  • interact with others and the world around us – and safely

Here is a great resource to share with therapists, teachers, and families new to  Ayres’ Sensory Integration to help explain Ayres’ SI in more detail.

Thank you to Ms Grieco and Ms Wooldridge for sharing this on YouTube