Treatment for sensory processing begins with a thorough initial evaluation as well as daily assessment. As soon as a therapist sees a client, the assessment begins. Daily assessment involves requesting feedback as well as watching for cues in behavior, affect, and movement that indicates which sensory system(s) to begin addressing and what level of sensory input the nervous system may need.
The therapist may then choose, offer choices, and set up the treatment room with specialized equipment including swings, mats, climbing structures, balls, barrels, and a variety of objects that may begin filling the sensory need and are utilized to accomplish specific results. The approach to treatment involves the therapist keenly observing subtle changes and to then begin adapting or changing the activity to find the “just right” challenge. A “just right” challenge is one that is not too difficult and not too easy and is successful at developing and enhancing skills and abilities.
In children, skill development occurs in the context of play. When it is working well, the child and therapist are having fun and appear to simply be playing. A therapist can and should be able to explain the underlying skill, the neurological and physical underpinnings of the activity, and what the activity is addressing that may not be apparent to the casual observer.
In adults, treatment is highly collaborative and highly individualized. Of primary importance is education and understanding of the adult’s own sensory processing patterns and how they translate into their daily living skills and struggles. A course of treatment is determined and implemented to address sensory integration struggles specific to the adult to enhance their participation and success in daily living activities.
Overall, treatment is both an art and a science. The therapist must use therapeutic skills, comprehensive training, extensive experience, and an array of sciences (neurology, anatomy, physiology, etc.) to identify and understand the individual sensory needs of each client. It is then the artful job of the therapist to adapt to the skill level of the client and to provide an environment and activity that meets the sensory need. A therapy session is collaborative, thoughtfully devised, and skillfully directed by the therapist in order to elicit an adaptive response. With each adaptive response, changes to the nervous system occur in a process commonly referred to as learning. These subtle changes made during therapy sessions begin to accumulate to overall improvements in attention, learning, coordination, and behavior.
Therapeutic Concepts and Protocols
The following sections briefly describe a few concepts and protocols that the Lamp Post has found to be highly effective and beneficial for many of our clients:
A sensory diet is a home program that is designed in collaboration with the therapist, child, and caregivers. The term “sensory diet” was coined by Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, FAOTA, OTR/L and involves specific and timed activities throughout the day that are chosen in order to meet the sensory needs of one’s nervous system. It is much like a food diet meets the nutritional needs of a person’s body. The brain and body is given regular “doses” of sensory input in order to meet the nervous system’s sensory needs that are required for performing every day activities. A sensory diet is effective in achieving a well regulated nervous system and in turn improves behavior, self-regulation, and attention and focus. If appropriate, a meeting may take place in order to design and implement a sensory diet. Regular discussions will also take place for modifications and adaptations as the client progresses. Find out more about sensory diets at www.avanti-ed.com.
The Therapressure Protocol was developed by Patricia Wilbarger, MEd, FAOTA, OTR and is a specifically timed program providing a nervous system with deep pressure input utilizing a specific device. It is an intensive program that is highly successful in treating, alleviating, and often completely eliminating sensory defensiveness. However, it must be utilized appropriately in order to be successful. If appropriate for a client, the therapist may meet and discuss its use, but will require full participation by signed agreement in order to implement this protocol. To find out more about the Therapressure Protocol at www.avanti-ed.com.
Therapeutic Listening is a treatment tool utilizing the auditory system developed by Sheila Frick, OTR. It is specially enhanced and modified music that may be utilized in treatment sessions as well as part of a home program to treat a wide range of sensory processing problems. Music selections are made specific to the client’s needs and selected as the client progresses. Therapeutic Listening will more than likely be utilized during treatment sessions at the Lamp Post. If this treatment tool is appropriate for a client, the therapist may discuss the benefits of its use as a home program, but will require full participation with signed agreement as well as additional costs for use of the equipment. You can find out more about Therapeutic Listening at www.vitallinks.net.
Astronaut Training is “a sound activated vestibular-visual protocol” designed by Mary J. Kawar MS, OTR and Sheila Frick, OTR. This protocol provides precise and comprehensive activation of the vestibular system which supports postural and ocular functioning. If appropriate, this protocol may be utilized in session and, if appropriate, discussed as part of a home program.
Occupational therapy treatment using a sensory integrative frame of reference is very individualized. Response to treatment is also highly individualized. As mentioned it is both an art and a science. As a client, if you ever have any questions or concerns throughout the treatment process, our therapists are always happy to discuss them with you.