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ASI and Supporting Parents of Children With Autism: The Role of Occupational Therapy

“…When creating an intervention plan, occupational therapy practitioners evaluate children with autism using observation and parent and teacher reports and also interview parents about their child’s relationships and eating, self-care, and daily living skills…”

Ayres Sensory Integration intervention is one of the most frequently requested and highly utilized interventions in autism. This intervention has specific requirements for therapist qualifications and the process of therapy. This systematic review of studies providing Ayres Sensory Integration therapy to children with autism indicates that it is an evidence‐based practice according to the criteria of the Council for Exceptional Children.” Schoen et al 2018 read more here

National Autistic Society in the UK explains Why is occupational therapy important for autistic children?

Occupational therapy using an Ayres’ Sensory Integrative approach – research supports the use of Ayres’ Sensory Integration, not just for Autism but also for other neurodevelopmental difficulties. See ASI 2020 Vision Goal 1 – Scholarship recent research and FB Group Evidence ASI

You can also read more about The Role of Occupational Therapy in Supporting Parents of Children With Autism on  AOTA’s website

 

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The Importance of the Sensory Environment for Premature Babies

Read more about one family’s journey through neonatal intensive care and what they have learned about the impact of the sensory environment on the developing nervous system of premature babies in this blog post By Anna Lee Beyer

 

toddler s left foot

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Health and Safety Fears Getting in the Way of Child Development

Ofsted has warned that some early years education providers have “undue concerns” about letting children play outside, climb and run around. These health and safety fears are hindering children’s ability to build up muscular strength and dexterity.

Without taking risks, children’s “natural inquisitiveness” is stifled, Ofsted’s annual report said, “In the early years, a crucial part of preparing children for school is developing their muscular strength and dexterity…

Read more in this article in the Telegraph

Ofsted is the Uk government’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Ofsted inspects and regulates schools, services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. The full report is available here 

blur boots child childhood
Photo by Lela Johnson on Pexels.com
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The Shops are Full of Simple Christmas Crafts

The Christmas season is a fantastic opportunity to get our little ones involved in some Christmas craft activities at home. For those of us short on time or ideas the shops are full of templates and packs that you can put together at home… here are some lovely craft ideas that have been sent to us by some of our families this year, paper chains, both shop bought and homemade, and a beautiful Christmas llama.

Don’t forget there is still time for you to win a copy of Love Jean by entering our Christmas time book give away. Share your Christmas themed sensory ideas with our community… by leaving a comment on one of our Christmas themed blog posts or on our facebook page … before the 15th December 2018

love jean book

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Sensory Friendly Christmas Gift Ideas for your Loved Ones

white and brown christmas gift box with card

1) Gift an experience – so much stuff can feel overwhelming, think about how you could gift an experience, a day out, vouchers to pay for entry to play spaces, trampoline parks and climbing gyms. Swimming, dance or music lessons. What about gym membership for older kids?

2) Hygge stocking stuffers Ideas from Nurture and thrive – have a look at these fantastic ideas 

3) Do you have friends who are parents of kids with additional needs who might appreciate a babysitting promise voucher or a meal out?

4) Use Christmas as an opportunity to add a much-needed piece of sensory equipment to your home. Talk to your OT now about what might work best for your family to meet your child’s sensory needs, simple ideas of play equipment, a mini trampette, a peanut ball or a gorilla gym

Don’t forget there is still time for you to win a copy of Love Jean by entering our Christmas time book give away. Share your Christmas themed sensory ideas with our community… by leaving a comment on one of our Christmas themed blog posts or on our facebook page … before the 15th December 2018

love jean book

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Christmas Themed – Calm Down Glitter Bottle Timer

Thanks so much for this beautiful, simple idea sent to us by one of our families.

Have you tried making and using a glitter-filled calm down bottle timer to help your little ones? It’s easy to put a Christmas theme into them by using festive colours and adding seasonal themed sequins or beads.

With so many versions on the internet, here is a blog post from my Crazy Blessed Life with tried and tested instructions to make your own. While Mama OT explains how the bottles can work by aiding self-regulation http://mamaot.com/sensory-calm-down-bottle/

And a Christmas themed jar from Teaching Mama

Christmas Sensory Bottle

Don’t forget there is still time for you to win a copy of Love Jean by entering our Christmas time book give away. Share your Christmas themed sensory ideas with our community… by leaving a comment on one of our Christmas themed blog posts or on our facebook page … before the 15th December 2018

love jean book

 

 

 

assorted color sequins

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Helping Autistic Children Manage the School Christmas Play

Christmas time in school can be difficult for children with additional needs, changes in routine and new experiences can be hard to manage. Here is some advice from Its a Tink Thing with ideas for helping autistic children to be included in the Christmas play.

https://itsatinkthing.com/how-to-help-an-autistic-child-to-manage-the-school-christmas-play/

Christmas photo 1495318_541193059305224_1470605699_o

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Choosing Wisely ® and ASI – a fantastic initiative from AOTA – it got me thinking about why people think sensory is easy and just anyone can do it.

Just like a parent can decide a child has a cold and needs Calpol, a sensory rich home environment can help support development. However just like a child may need a Dr, Dentist or other specialist if they have a more serious illness, what some people need is specialist intervention.

Sensory Integration therapy requires years of training, first just to become a therapist and then the advanced training needed to accurately assess, develop a personalised intervention plan and then carry out the intervention. We might all know when tonsils need removing, but few of us would do it at home. Telling someone about how tonsils get removed or how sensory integration happens is very different to actually doing it, and doing it safely and so that the outcome is as expected. Sensory integration therapy is not just about swinging on a swing or bouncing on a ball – it is about so much more. And is definitely not about just about wearing headphones and having a bouncy cushion.

The superb article from AOTA’s CHOOSING WISELY programme – see link below – got me thinking. I get weekly emails from people offering to treat other people’s children without training, offering Sensory Profile assessments by mail from a questionnaire when they are not even a therapist.

Share this blog and have interesting discussions with clients, colleagues and line managers. As relevant here in UK and Ireland as in US. This really confirms what we teach in our modules and promote as an organisation; including the best standardised norm referenced tool currently at our disposal – the SIPT. No or limited assessment waters down efficacy. Standardised assessment (when possible) structured clinical observations and thorough clinical reasoning using a clear process are imperative. Data driven decision making.

https://www.aota.org/AboutAOTA/Membership/Tools/Periodicals/choosing-wisely-sensory.aspx

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Dyspraxia or DCD, what term and recommendatons do you use in your EHCP’s and why?

pexels-photo-1040427“Developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a condition affecting physical co-ordination that causes a child to perform less well than expected in daily activities for his or her age, and appear to move clumsily.”

NHS Choices[accessed 1 July 2018] 

Sometimes the terms we use as therapists are disputed in EHCP meetings or tribunals. The following quotes have proved useful in defending my own use of the terms in reports, especially when I link the term I use to the specific assessment tool I have used to do my assessment and clinical formulation.

Gibbs and colleagues 2007 described that “the definition of DCD is very similar to dyspraxia. A survey of health and educational professionals showed widespread uncertainty about the definitions of, and distinction between, DCD and dyspraxia. Furthermore, the rationale for using one or the other term in the literature has been unclear. Therefore, DCD and dyspraxia should be regarded as synonymous.”

art assess communication conceptual

When I use the Movement ABC-2, I will tend to use the term DCD, as the tool and the research about it are clearly linked. As our local NHS paediatric services use the Movement ABC-2 for diagnostic purposes, despite its limitations.

For some referrals, therefore,  this is my tool of choice and the quickest way to ensure the child can access services because their condition is then officially recognised by teachers and the Local Authority. Thie example report is then how I report the results, ensuring I clarify the limitations of the tool, and that additional data and assessment has been undertaken to inform my clinical reasoning.

DCD Proforma

But when I use the term Dyspraxia, I am usually using it to refer to a pattern of praxis difficulties recognised in the research that we hypothesise interferes with participation in activities at home, school and out and about.

This pattern is typically identified by gathering a history of development and functional difficulties, Ayres’ Clinical Observations and the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test. I like the history form in Schaaf and Mailloux 2015 and the Sensory Processing Measure, or for adults the Adult/Adolescent Sensory History.

people in front of macbook pro

I will also use the COSA, OSA, SCOPE and MOHOST to gather information related to difficulties with participation in daily life and to set goals, and these can then also act as great subjective outcome measures. The impact of DCD/Dyspraxia on daily life is significant. Caçola 2016 described how Dyspraxia/DCD is considered to be “one of the major health problems among school-aged children worldwide, with unique consequences to physical and mental health.”

Poor praxis often means a person with little understanding of where their body is in relation to the world and so what to do next, making the plan and doing it becomes harder than for others. When this happens, our brain is unable to feel safe and secure, and so it is unlikely that the person can remain in a ‘calm and alert’ state.

children riding bicycle

For those who have poor praxis, a sudden increase in arousal often happens when a  new or unfamiliar task is presented, because the previous failures to achieve success on sensory-motor tasks will trigger and raise arousal levels. This often means the person’s body is on ‘red alert’  – reactive to the world and small confusing changes happening within their own body. This may mean they are more likely to make decisions in flight, fight or freeze mode, resulting in behaviours that challenge others. The underlying problem is the praxis deficit not sensory reactivity in response to a perceived threat. This is why thorough assessment is required.

Arousal and alertness, sensory modulation and praxis are interwoven with a complexity that is often missed by others and those new to learning about sensory integration theory and practice. Praxis difficulties that result in behaviours that challenge others are often labelled as sensory modulation difficulties, however digging deeper will often reveal praxis deficits underpin the dysregulated behaviours and attempts to get control. This is very true of our clients who have dyspraxia co-occurring with mental health difficulties. We ignore and disregard praxis at our peril. Left unaddressed, praxis deficits continue to interfere with participation in daily life, skill development and self-esteem unabated.

Watch this young person’s story about living with dyspraxia.

How is a diagnosis made?

For a diagnosis of DCD to be made, your child usually needs to meet all of the following criteria, in some areas of the UK this requires a score below a cut off on the Movement ABC-2 Test.

  • motor skills are significantly below the level expected for their age and the opportunities they have had to learn and use these skills
  • the lack of motor skill is significant and persistently affects the child’s day-to-day activities and achievements at home and at school
  • the child’s symptoms first developed during an early stage of their development
  • the lack of motor skills isn’t better explained by
    • a delay in all areas of development (general learning disability)
    • other medical conditions; such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy

Usually, DCD is only diagnosed in children with a general learning disability if their physical coordination is significantly more impaired than their mental ability.

What about DCD/Dyspraxia and Autism?

In numerous studies, the links between autism and praxis skills have been reported.

In 2016 Cassidy published important findings from a study, showing that

kid s plating water on grass field during daytime

  • Dyspraxia/DCD is significantly more prevalent in adults with Autism
  • Motor coordination difficulties commonly co-occur with Autism
  • Dyspraxia is associated with significantly higher autistic traits and lower empathy in those without Autism.

These results suggest that motor coordination skills are important for effective social skills and empathy. This is clearly seen in children and young people presenting in clinics who struggle to know how to make friends, ask for the help they need and can’t understand others feelings and frustration.

What about DCD/Dyspraxia and Speech and Language Difficulties?

In 2012 Stout and Chaminade stated that “long-standing speculations and more recent hypotheses propose a variety of possible evolutionary connections between language, gesture and tool use. These arguments have received important new support from neuroscientific research on praxis, observational action understanding and vocal language demonstrating substantial functional/anatomical overlap between these behaviours.”

Listen to this Speech and Language therapist describe the links between speech and language concerns and tone, more general praxis and motor coordination difficulties.