Essential Questions for a Prospective Sensory Integration Therapist

If your child has been diagnosed with a sensory integration (SI) problem, finding the perfect therapist to suit his or her needs is not an easy process. Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a complex and challenging field of therapy, and requires a professional who knows what he or she is doing. When meeting a prospective therapist for the first time, it can be very helpful to come prepared with a list of questions for him or her, including the following:

What is your training in SI?

Sometimes the simplest questions are the most helpful. A great first step in gauging whether a given therapist is right for your child is to get a sense of their knowledge of SPD, and training is a great indicator. There are several SI certification programs out there that your prospective therapist may have taken – one of the best-known is the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test (SIPT) which has been offered by Sensory Integration International in the past and in recent years by Western Psychological Services (WPS).  If the therapist is not certified in the SIPT, then asking what other coursework they have taken related to sensory integration can be helpful.

What practical experience in SI do you have?

So your child’s prospective therapist has degrees from all Ivy-League schools and a slew of professional memberships to boot? That’s all good and dandy, but there is no substitute for practical, hands-on experience treating children with sensory problems. This doesn’t necessarily have to limit your choices to veteran therapists with decades of experience – there are many fantastic mentorship programs for starting therapists that provide invaluable experience for use in a clinical setting. If your child’s prospective therapist is a bit behind in the clinical-experience department, ask if he or she has gone through any training or mentorship programs that included practical study (this might include fieldwork at a sensory integration clinic or an intensive mentorship program such as those offered by the Spiral Foundation) – the experience a new therapist can gain from these can certainly be enough to make up for a shortage of years in the clinic.

What other types of SI coursework have you taken?

Believe it or not, the best therapist for your sensory-impaired child may not be certified in SI at all! SPD can affect any of the seven human senses, and if your child is severely impaired in one sense more than another, a specialist who has taken SI-related coursework in your child’s area of sensory difficulty may be your best bet. For example, a child with extreme sensitivity to noise may make great progress while under the care of a therapist with heavy coursework on vestibular problems and sound therapy programs.

If you know a therapist who is looking for more experience and training in SI, be sure to refer them to the Sensory Integration Essentials Program here at the Spiral Foundation. This all-new course series for 2014 provides a solid and complete understanding of the ins and outs of SI and sensory problems, and includes hands-on clinical experience working with children with sensory difficulties. Our next course in the series, Essentials of SI Assessment, is coming up fast, so tell them to register today! As always, feel free to reach out to us any time at 617-969-4410 ext. 231 or courses@thespiralfoundation.org.

Sensory Tips for Parents and Teachers #2: Connecting with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Play

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” the old saying goes. If your child happens to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that saying goes double for him or her. Playtime is crucial to stimulating the social, physical and mental development of children with ASD. Connecting in such a way with a child with ASD may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be! There are many deceptively easy tricks you can use to help stimulate your child’s development through play, including the following:

Limit Familiar Toys and Props

When parents see their children with ASD playing obsessively with certain toys, their first instinct is often to try to play along with them using said toys. However, this can be a challenge at times. Children with ASD tend to have very specific routines and habits when it comes to using their toys, and unless you can tap into their thoughts (scientifically impossible as of the posting of this blog) you may find it difficult to play with their toys the “right” way, as the child sees it. To avoid conflicts, use novel toys or games – such as Chase, tickle games (assuming your child likes these), or Hide and Seek – can be a great way to help your child build his or her play skills and connect with them in a way that is fun for both of you.

Maintaining Eye Level

This tip does not necessarily have to include eye contact, as most children with ASD tend not make direct eye contact anyway. What this tip does require is for your face to be clearly visible to your child at all times. This may require you to kneel, squat or even lie down, but your devotion to this can help your child pick up on certain facial expressions and start to associate them with corresponding emotions.

Make Mistakes and Be Absurd

Lack of attention is often a major concern in children with ASD, but this unlikely trick is a great step in the right direction! Being absurd and using things in unusual ways at unpredictable times can greatly help catch your child’s attention and hone his or her ability to notice what’s happening around him or her. This is an invaluable skill with countless applications in life. Try putting on a bowl instead of a hat when you are getting ready to go out and wait to see your child’s reaction when he or she notices. You could also put your socks on your hands and gloves on your feet, put your jacket on backwards or anything else you think your child may notice. As an added bonus, laugh at the mistake with your child when he or she notices, and correct it with him or her watching – this will exemplify that mistakes happen, and they can be fixed when they do.

If you would like to learn more about helping children with ASD through play, be sure to register for The Spiral Foundation’s next webinar, Promoting Play Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, on Monday, February 10, 2014. Our very own Sarah Friel, MA, SLP-CCC will be sharing vital information on this timely topic, drawn from her 23 years of experience helping children with ASD. Plus, you can earn contact hours! For more information on our other course offerings, reach out to us at (617) 969-4410 ext 231 or admin@thespiralfoundationfoundation.org.