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The importance of a comprehensive assessment

Thank you to the families who gave consent and our secret blogger OT for this contribution.

“A little while ago, two mums approached me and both asked about assessments for their children. Both were young adults, academically highly able and struggling with their self-organisation and motor skills.

Both young people consented to an assessment and completed, through self-report, the Adult/ Adolescent Sensory History (AASH) questionnaire. They were also assessed with the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT). The SIPT is a standardised assessment with normative data for ages 4 through 8 years, 11 months. On this particular assessment tool, sensory integration and processing skills scores plateau at around this age, though the test is still informative for people beyond this age, who should have achieved.

The young lady assessed has a diagnosis of social anxiety and has low confidence, while the young man is quite a confident character. She has a history of bumps, trips and spills, and will tell anecdotes of these with great humour; while he prefers to focus on what he does well in conversation.

I love the AASH, the reports it gives highlight each sensory system, differentiate between discrimination and modulation difficulties and addresses motor planning, sequencing and social/ emotional aspects of sensory integration and processing needs.

It uses clear, non-patronising language and activities appropriate to adults and adolescents. It shows up really clearly a person’s (or their caregiver’s as necessary) perception of their sensory integration and processing needs and how these affect their day to day life. In this instance, the young lady highlighted many sensory processing needs.

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The young man reported almost no difficulties, his only score in the primary sensory systems section was mild proprioceptive difficulties. When questioned as to the accuracy of his answers, he tended to reply “well, nobody likes that, do they?”

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Having scored the AASH checklists, I completed a SIPT with each person. The SIPT is a battery of 17 tests which assess a person’s sensory integration and processing including perceptual-motor skills through tasks with standardised administration and normative data against which to compare an individuals test results. Guess which person showed more significant difficulties in the direct assessment? 

On the SIPT assessment scores between -1 and +1 standard deviation are considered typical, above +1 are strengths and scores below -1 are of clinical significance and require support and will benefit from direct intervention.

The exception to this being Post Rotatory Nystagmus in which a low (below -1) or high score (above +1) indicates significant difficulty inhibiting response to vestibular information and often relates to a low Standing and Walking Balance score.

Here are the young lady’s SIPT results:

 

 

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Definite movement, balance and body awareness difficulties but also some areas of significant strength, particularly around her visual skills and imitation, which she uses to compensate for her body awareness difficulties.

Here’s the young man’s chart:

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Strong visual skills, compensating for significant challenges in the other areas.

This experience taught me so much. From the AASH scores, I was expecting the young lady to have much more problems in the SIPT than the young man, their conversation about their lifestyles confirmed this expectation. Still, then the assessment showed so clearly how much of that was related to confidence.

An evaluation based solely on checklists is not enough. It tells you what a person perceives to be their difficulties, guides the direction of evaluation and adds experiential evidence to the overall assessment.

A good questionnaire is evidence-based and norm-referenced, but it always needs to be triangulated with direct observation and where possible structured and standardised assessment. These tools can tell you so much about the respondent’s confidence and resilience and what they find easy or difficult in day to day life. But I have learned it is a mistake to rely upon one alone when assessing somebody’s sensory integration and processing skills and needs”.

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‘Sensory’ in Autism isn’t just about sensitivity.

ASI WISE was recently invited to deliver a presentation about Autism and sensory issues to a UK National Autistic Society meeting. Our presentations to the audience addressed the science and evidence behind autism and explored a families experience of sensory integration therapy.

Since the presentation we have had interesting conversations with some parents who attended. A common theme has been parents discovering that motor and praxis difficulties are part of sensory integration theory and therapy, and that ‘sensory’ in autism isn’t just about sensitivity.

Here is a great blog by an adult with autism who describes those sensory integration difficulties from visual scanning to actually doing.

http://idoinautismland.com/?p=376

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Messy Play 1 – What is messy play and how can it help?

Submitted by guest blogger, Ruth OT

It’s the summer holidays for most schools in England, including my kid’s schools. I’m well known for my love of messy/ tactile play, and summer holidays and messy play are made to go together.

First of all, can I just say that messy play is not just about the sensory input, it’s not a “sensory session”, it’s certainly not a substitute for “sensory integration therapy”?

All play is sensory.

All activity is sensory.

Messy play is a about normal development and learning through a playful activity using tactile experiences and experimentation. It should be fun, it can be intensely therapeutic, and it can form a part of sensory integration therapy session, but overuse of the word “sensory” for activities like this weakens the power of true sensory integration therapy.

Second of all, can I just say that messy play is not a substitute for natural tactile experiences? Messy play is not a substitute for muddy walks, tree climbing, animal handling and other important life and learning experiences. It can scaffold and enable those activities for children who find these experiences difficult to tolerate, but there’s nothing like nature and the great outdoors for kids’ sensory skills.

Here are some of the reasons I love messy play…

It teaches basic cookery skills, but nobody has to actually eat the product

Through making recipes, you can practice opening packages, pouring, measuring, stirring (and holding the bowl still at the same time) and following a recipe. But you don’t have to worry about food hygiene, if the child drops it on the floor, picks their nose, spits, or anything els. You don’t have to pretend it’s delicious. But there is still a tangible result.

It teaches flexibility of thinking and problem solving

So many times I say to kids “OK, that doesn’t look like it does on my picture, what did we do wrong?”, followed by “OK, let’s try that then!”. It’s amazing to watch our children move from “it’s gone wrong, bin it” to experimenting to try and improve the outcome. When I hear “it’s too runny, add more flour” I smile, I count this as a breakthrough parenting moment.

It can be really helpful to use non-specific language, I love seeing that look and a laugh when I say ‘you need a good amount of this’ or ‘give it a squirt of that’. I say we’re working on estimating.

It teaches art, creativity and scientific experimentation

We’ve made beach scenes out of shaving foam and cornflour gloop, farms from rice and silly string and just beautiful visual effects from any range of strange concoctions. I love that moment of “what happens if I mix this with that?”. So long as you’ve checked what you’re using properly, to make sure it’s safe, the worst that will happen is a sticky mess.

Beware of borax as a substitute in cheap homemade slime recipes!

It teaches communication

It can be a great motivator that isn’t food-based; practising choice-making, turn-taking and asking for help is really easy with a tin of shaving foam and some dry pasta. You can follow a recipe, practising reading and maths. Make visual recipes pictures of the scoops of flour and oil, with laminated recipes so the child can tick off each step they do – wiping clean at the end. Get older kids to research their own recipes on the internet and print them off ready for the session.

It teaches motor skills and tactile discrimination

Opening packets, pouring to a measure and sprinkling need I go on? And then squeezing, pressing, rolling, stretching and cutting. It’s amazing for fine motor skill development. You can hide things in a messy play tray or a ball of playdough for the child to find and choose the perfect texture. 

It exposes the child or young person to new sensations

You will make lots of smells with microwaveable soap kits, you will spill liquids, you will touch textures and the outcome is often unpredictable.

It can help with food aversions

Food-based textures and odours can become familiar through messy play. Exploration of food and food-like substances in a calm, fun activity without the pressure and anxiety of being pushed to eat can help to break down anxiety responses to foods, meals and eating.

It’s fun

Or at least, you should make sure it is. 

So, with all of that in mind, Over the next few days, I’ll give you 6 of my favourite recipes, one for each week of the English summer holidays. There are loads of recipes out there, I have a whole book of slime recipes (yes, really) but these ones are tried and tested and hopefully varied.

Hope you have fun trying them out…

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Summer fun ideas for challenging Tweenies and Teens

Here are some great hand-eye coordination activities for clients across the lifespan – some are especially good for teens! Try these with tweenies and teens with difficulties with sensory-motor coordination, to get them off devices and outdoors over the summer.

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About the senses and development.

Our seven senses are critical to early development. Watch this video below to see more.

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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.

pexels-photo-1166990“Sensory integration difficulties can influence self-regulation, movement, learning and interaction with others.”

Allen and Smith 2011

 

You can watch more here.