Novak and Honan (2019) published a paper in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal which has caused controversy, which was discussed in an earlier Sensory Project blog post: https://sensoryproject.org/novak-and-honan/.
Particularly upsetting was a traffic light system which indicated that sensory integration therapy is a red light (or do not do) intervention but that ABA (short for applied behaviour analysis) could be viewed as a green light (or can definitely use) intervention.
This is especially concerning as ABA has been linked to PTSD. Testimonials from those who have had ABS therapy have told us about the negative affect they have found this therapy has had on their lives.
Recently, the US Government has issued a report worth sharing that adds further information about ABA and it’s usefulness, which is in contrast to Novak’s article. The report, about comprehensive autism care, found that at best ABA does not change symptoms and at worst, ABA worsens them: https://www.altteaching.org/us-government-reports-that-aba-doesnt-work/
We are keen to hear your thoughts about the Novak’s article and the traffic light system. Follow the link below and join the discussion:
This international women’s day, ASI wise are remembering and celebrating Dr. A. Jean Ayres a neuroscientist, educational psychologist and occupational therapist who pioneered the concepts of sensory integration and its impact on human learning and development. She wrote books, papers and research articles, mentored therapists and offered pioneering therapy to children, inspiring therapists over the globe to take her work and research, develop, teach and use it to support countless children and adults across their lifespans to live their best possible lives.
Here’s to all the amazing therapists inspired by one woman’s revolutionary insight!
We should use and value our specialist skills – promoting our profession – information from one assessment tool is not a comprehensive assessment. We should act with integrity and only practice what we are skilled in and trained to do. This can and must include postgraduate training and we should value this investment in our own skills to deliver a great service to our clients. I felt ashamed of my own profession today, and here is why.
Today I chatted with a parent I was introduced to on social media. They had paid almost more money than I earn in 2 days in private practice for a 10-page report written after the parent returned a completed Sensory Profile to a therapist via the mail. Then after a 45-minute meeting where the child played on the floor while the therapist interviewed the Mum, the report and recommendations were written.
On the back of this report, the child who lives far away from the assessing therapist is now about to undertake:
Balance exercises every morning which the Mum was training to do over the internet. These include standing on one leg eyes open and eyes closed, and, hopping eyes open and eyes closed along a line.
A brushing programme; which Mum will be soon be trained to do over the internet – this needs to be done every morning and every night.
Using a sensory diet sheet and the child will follow 5 activities off this sheet each day with her TA at break-time while her friends are out on the playground.
Using a wobble cushion at lunch to facilitate eating new foods.
An after-school calming plan – spinning on a wheelie board and jumping on a trampoline for 10 mins.
The final recommendation was getting sensory therapy from a ‘Sensory OT’ if these things didn’t work. I am apparently one of the closest ‘sensory therapists’, so I got a call. The therapy has not worked. Where do I start? What is a ‘Sensory OT’? Am I one of these?
I have to be professional. So I started with educating the parent about our profession and how we practice.
Then I told her about Jean A Ayres and about Ayres’ Sensory Integration and Practitioner Education including the ICEASI. I had to dispel some myths she’d been sold that sensory diets are not related to Ayres’ Sensory Integration – exploring the history of the theory’s development, explaining how the theory should be used to inform assessment and clinical reasoning even when we can only provide advice and strategies – but that these should still be individualised following a comprehensive assessment.
The approach used and charged for is not what I recognise and not what encompasses best practice – best practice in occupational therapy, wherever we work, involves using assessment tools; some standardised and with norms or some just structured questionnaires that collect and collate our clinical observations. Then we listen and hear the client’s voice/story via their narrative and then using this to confirm our clinical observations. Then using the best possible evidence we should work alongside clients to develop goals and set a way to measure if what we then do makes a difference – improving participation in daily life.
This is not a process restricted to Ayres’ Sensory Integration, but one that should guide best practice in any area of clinical practice; judicious collection of data through assessment to inform clinical reasoning that will allow the setting on individualised, personal goals to inform intervention planning and implementation – with careful measurement of outcomes alongside reflective practice.
This is our profession – working with people in partnership, alongside them in conversation and while using assessment tools in the assessment is expected, we choose tools specific to the person, the referral reason using our clinical reasoning. This is our expertise and what makes our jobs a profession.
The Sensory Profile, like all assessments, is meant to only guide and inform clinical reasoning. Otherwise, we could just hire number crunching computer programs that use algorithms to assess plan intervention and write reports instead of OT’s.
[This blog was written a while ago, with some details changed to protect the family, but at their request and with their permission. It was written just after my father in law fell and then sadly did not recover. I was very sad anyway, but after this conversation, I was really very very sad and I waited to make sure I still felt as concerned and as sad after some time had passed.]
Our seven senses are critical to early development. Watch this video below to see more.
Ayres (1972) defined sensory integration as “the neurological process that organises sensation from one’s own body and from the environment and makes it possible to use the body effectively within the environment”
When they do not work well, or the environment we live in does not allow this to happen, we can’t get the sensory information our bodies and brain need. This interferes with our development, learning and participation in all the activities of our everyday lives.
“Sensory integration difficulties can influence self-regulation, movement, learning and interaction with others.”