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A Weekend of Learning at Abbot’s Lea School, Liverpool – Using Sensory Strategies for Mental Health and wellbeing Weekend Workshop

The ASI Wise lecture team have been at Abbot’s Lea School in Liverpool this weekend with a fantastic group of committed and enthusiastic occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and teachers exploring the use of sensory strategies and Ayres’ Sensory Integration therapy to support children, young people and adults mental and wellbeing health.

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Experiential learning opportunities, embedded into the course, help participants to understand their own sensory systems and to experience the challenges that the people they are working with face on a daily basis.

 

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With a mixture of classroom-based and hands-on practical learning, participants explored how to use the spaces and environment available in both school and clinic to support regulation and praxis. The workshop provided an opportunity to hear about the theory and practice of Ayres’ Sensory Integration, it’s application supporting those with autism, ADHD and dyspraxia,  with up to date research and evidence supporting practice.

To find out more about our courses and learning here

 

 

We are so grateful to Abbot’s Lea School who have allowed us to use such a beautiful spacious venue. The three lovely well-lit rooms allowed us to create a pop-up sensory clinic, where participants had space to move about; extra room to break into groups supporting learning and the sharing of ideas. The school staff and local therapist volunteer support team have been incredibly welcoming and supportive, helping the workshop to run smoothly. As a bonus, the sun has shone all weekend which has allowed us to use the outdoor spaces, we have spotted a few daffodils and blossom trees around the city – it feels like spring is on its way.

Thank you to our volunteer therapists who helped to make the weekend such a success.

 

 

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Sensory Ladders

The first Sensory Ladders were made in 2001 for adults with sensory integration difficulties receiving help with mental health difficulties in Cornwall. Influenced by the paediatric Alert Program, they offered therapists a way to combine Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Ayres’ Sensory Integration, addressing the development of the person’s self-awareness in collaboration with ward staff on an acute psychiatric inpatient unit.

The need to start with the person where they are at, before introducing learning about new ways of being, including the development of new skills, made it necessary for the Sensory Ladder to remain a very individualised and personalised journey within a close safe therapeutic relationship.

Both Ayres’ Sensory Integration(ASI) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy(DBT) share a common understanding that development and change can only occur within a safe environment. The DBT idea of balancing safety and challenge reverberates strongly with Ayres’ concept of the ‘just right challenge’.

Creating a Sensory Ladder is about creating opportunities for an adult or child to learn to become aware of themselves in a new way – to explore and discover new things about mind, body and brain. It allows the therapist and person to do “curious wondering” together, and for the person to try new things – creating and promoting active but informed risk-taking; testing how we might feel and experience something when we do it differently; new ways of being – new ways of responding.

Making and using a Sensory Ladder is about the journey together within a safe therapeutic relationship. It’s about getting to see and know someone in a very different way, getting underneath the skin of behaviours that are perhaps being described by others as tricky or challenging.

The Sensory Ladder facilitates the reframing of behaviour that are a result of sensory integration challenges, providing the first step of acceptance of the behaviour necessary before strategies and therapy support development and change to happen.

To see more Sensory Ladders, visit our Sensory Ladder FB Page

Pokemon Sensory Ladder copy

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Research Update: Early alterations of social brain networks in young children with autism

In this study, the researchers were able to suggest that there are “frequency specific alterations in the driving of information flow from brain areas implicated in social information processing during the viewing of naturalistic dynamic social images in toddlers and preschool with ASD” and that these occur in the early stages of ASD. These findings support the clinical experience of OT’s and others doing ASI with this client group, that early intervention is critical. The study continues to recommend further studies into social orienting skills as a way of perhaps remediating social brain development while neural plasticity is most optimal.

Wouldn’t it be great if the results we see in clinical practice of ASI, helping children better orientate, attend and respond to sensory input including social cues, studied as a possible intervention in response to this study?

Here is a copy of the abstract and link to the full article.

Social impairments are a hallmark of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but empirical evidence for early brain network alterations in response to social stimuli is scant in ASD. We recorded the gaze patterns and brain activity of toddlers with ASD and their typically developing peers while they explored dynamic social scenes. Directed functional connectivity analyses based on electrical source imaging revealed frequency specific network atypicalities in the theta and alpha frequency bands, manifesting as alterations in both the driving and the connections from key nodes of the social brain associated with autism. Analyses of brain-behavioural relationships within the ASD group suggested that compensatory mechanisms from dorsomedial frontal, inferior temporal and insular cortical regions were associated with less atypical gaze patterns and lower clinical impairment. Our results provide strong evidence that directed functional connectivity alterations of social brain networks is a core component of atypical brain development at early stages of ASD.

https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.31670.001