Parenting Through the Senses and Sensory Ladders – A Timeline

Inspiration from 1979

The history of Parenting through the Senses starts with A. Jean Ayres’, PhD and her book, Sensory Integration and the Child. Ayres’ wrote this book for parents. To support them support their child’s development. Early expert support and guidance  – proactive intervention preventing later crisis.

2004 An idea 

While working in paediatrics undertaking a study about targeted prevention for children considered at risk of DCD, Kath realised that  the universal, targeted and specific approach triangle model used in schools across Cornwall for local children, where there is extreme poverty and social deprivation required a wider community solution beyond schools. The whole schools model aimed at young people via whole school strategies; targeted FunFit followed by the more specialist Top to Toe before referral for OT Services were part of prevention but critically excluded vulnerable parents. Kath’s contact with parents from across Cornwall, and experiences working in rural townships in South Africa focussed her attention to how best to support parents through proactive parent/carer support and education.

2005 Innovation 

From 2005 to 2006 Kath refined and piloted her parent psycho-education resources. The new format requested by parents would now run over 10 weeks instead of a day. This was the next iteration of Parenting Through The Senses. The groups offered interactive practical learning about the senses, the brain and the body, with an emphasis on practical activities and support. This group offered parents and carers a chance to learn together about how the brain is able to take in, process, integrate and respond to sensory inputs that are critical to everyday life and well-being. There was time to talk about and share their child’s stories and sensory profiles, hear their concerns and in small groups, begin to facilitate and develop solutions; new ideas and possibilities, and strategies for use at home.

2006 Pilot Study 

Positive feedback from the first 3 courses and their impact on family lives informed and refined the model and process.  There was interest from expert therapists therapists abroad, using the model to set up and research similar projects in their local areas.

Lucy Miller’s article from 2013 clearly provides additional empirical support for this model of an early intervention approach. read more here: 

2007 Top-Down and Bottom-Up 

After embedding practice at a local level, and with a growing interest nationally, Kath now focussed on sharing her work nationally. While lecturing, developing workshops and training/education resources to support therapists working to address sensory integration difficulties across the lifespan; trauma/crisis and  in acute and secure mental health services, Kath remained passionate about developing services for early intervention. 

Sharing her parent education programme with national providers included developing a specialist Parenting Through The Senses workshop aimed at parents and others caring for young people with Autism. It was while working with the NAS to showcase the importance of the senses to health and wellbeing, that they were able to host the first-ever joint conference they ran about Autism and the Senses.

2010 Onwards and Outwards

Her Parenting Through the Senses Programme and Sensory Ladders were incorporated into national training; shared as part of parent education days, the 3-day Understanding Sensory Processing workshops and with therapists learning about Sensory Integration on modules SI1, SI2 and later from 2010, SI2/3.

The next few years were spent gathering data and feedback from local families, while working alongside NHS therapists across the UK, sharing best practice, learning and resources. 

2013 A Pilot Study 

In 2013, as part of a pilot study for a PhD, Kath started exploring and researching ways to develop the programme exploiting advances in technology. This included adapting ways to share the programme across other counties, expanding its application to remote areas; now possible because of high speed broadband. Part of this pilot was to investigate how to tweak the programme for different audiences including targeting the programme for certain clinical conditions eg FASD and ASD.

2015 Collaboration and Sharing continues  

2015 Launch of Sensory Live 

An early version of Parenting Through the Senses Online went live online in 2015.

The project’s success nationally was then used to creatively apply contemporary research and design theory and practice to inform the development of further online healthcare education development and prototyping, with the aim of enhancing early adoption and user outcomes, realising Kath’s passion to ensure affordability for all. 

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October 2016

Different methods of delivery depending on the audience needs are in the DNA of Parenting Through The Senses. Different iterations were delivered and shared in neighbouring counties for further face to face pilot testing, via Kath’s colleague and ASI Wise fellow director Ros Urwin, then lead OT in Dorset and the surrounding area. Ros’ team won a local award for delivering Parenting Through the Senses across Dorset.

2018 Expanding

Ros’ move into private practice provided yet another opportunity to deliver accessible and affordable Parenting Through The Senses, face to face within Dorset and the surrounding areas.

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2019 Creating 

Kath, Ros and Mandy set up ASI Wise and Sensory Project in 2018. Their vision for Parenting Through The Senses was not lost. After 3 years of developing their workshop and modular programme for therapists, the not for profit organisation was then in a position to sponsor the development of Parenting Through The Senses, so that the offer was accessible, affordable and available for families across the nations. 

2020 All Change Please

Then along came Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and social distancing!

Read more here about our support for parents and families.

While supporting therapists; thinking about how to provide therapy via telehealth, we focussed our energy on providing free support and access to resources for families via our  Facebook Group for Parents and carers – Sensory Stuck At Home; continuing to be supported by a growing band of therapist volunteers.

As lockdown eased over the summer, we finalised and launched the first Parenting Through The Senses via Zoom.  In late summer of 2020, Session 2 was delivered – all about Self Regulation and Sensory Ladders. As the message about the impact of the senses on co- and self-regulation was realised, in part due to everyone’s common lived experience of life in the pandemic.

Requests flooded in for places on our Sensory Ladder webinars, with therapists and families recognising the potential of this innovative responsive approach to supporting young people and adults struggling with co-regulation and self-regulation over Covid-19. This interest was global, with feedback from therapists and families was about how this learning about Ladders and Spiders was life-changing. 

“It has been a lifeline to our family. Thank you.”

2021 Sensory Ladders Open Access

Based on this great feedback and obvious unmet need, in Summer 2021, at the Royal of College of Occupational Therapy Annual Conference,  as headline sponsors, we launched free open access learning for therapists, parents and others; 

Sensory Ladders | anyone | anywhere | anytime

 You can sign up here:

The OTASA (Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa) 2021 Annual Conference was another opportunity to share Sensory Ladders with the world. 

September 2021

More news about new ways of accessing Parenting Through the Senses live on Zoom coming soon.