Debbie gained a BSc (HONS) from the University of the West England in Bristol and has completed postgraduate training in Sensory Integration (Level 3) through Ulster University.
She is a member of the Sensory Integration Network, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (MRCOT) and is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Additionally, Debbie is the mother of a teenager on the Autistic Spectrum. Her own experience provides both empathy and insight, as she understands the unique challenges families face when trying to source help for their loved ones.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational Therapists help individuals to participate in activities important to them or necessary for daily living. Our focus is on occupation. We use this term to describe all the things we do to socialise, manage our personal care, learn, work, have fun and contribute to the society in which we live.
We have an in-depth understanding of how illness, disability or challenging life events can affect a person’s ability to do the things that are important to them. We work with our clients to identify and prioritise goals, plan their therapeutic journey and overcome these challenges to live the life they want.
Occupational Therapists - or OTs - focus on the person's strengths and place the client and their families at the centre of the therapy process. OTs collaborate closely with families, teachers and other professionals to ensure a solid structure of support for the client. Each therapeutic process is unique, and each plan of care is tailored to meet the specific needs of that client in order to help them to live their lives in a way that is meaningful and satisfying to them.
What is Sensory Integration?
Sensory Integration is the process by which our brains receive sensory information from the environment, and make an adaptive response. This neurological process organizes sensations received through one’s skin, eyes, joints, gravity and movement receptors. When there is dysfunction, it can impede upon a person’s activities of daily living, their mental health and self-esteem.
Sensory UK offers experienced, post-graduate training in Sensory Integration (Level 3).
As the figure above highlights, sensory processing underlies all higher-level functioning. When one presents with inefficient processing of input from the tactile, proprioception, vestibular, auditory and interoception sensory systems, these systems further affect one’s performance and skills.
Common difficulties with sensory processing may include:
- Being over-responsive to sensation – eg. avoiding all movement activities and preferring a more sedentary lifestyle which impedes interaction with others; being startled by sudden or loud noises creating heightened anxiety
- Being under-responsive to sensation – eg. moving constantly in one’s chair; craving enhanced movement input to ‘switch on the brain’ (can present with impulsive or hyperactive behaviours); unaware of touch when someone brushes past them; not noticing when hands or face are messy
- Sensory Seeking – eg. craving sensory input; highly interested in movement, lights, colours, sounds, smells and tastes that excite; unusual tolerance to pain; doesn’t understand personal space; walking with heavy, loud steps; enjoys bumping and crashing into things and people; preferring ‘rough play’; chewing on collars and non-food items
- Sensory Avoider – eg. can be seen as ‘oversensitive’. Doesn’t like being hugged, startled or frightened by unexpected sounds or bright lights; hears background noise that others aren’t able to detect; refuses to wear ‘uncomfortable’ clothing; wary of swings; has difficulty knowing where his/her body is in relation to people or objects; prefers quieter environments and avoids crowds
- Sensory Modulation – the neurological functioning which regulates sensory input in order to make sense of the physical world, and of one's place within that world. Sensory Modulation allows the central nervous system to regulate such things as attention and activity level, by enabling one to attend to important stimuli, filter out irrelevant stimuli, and modify the amount of stimulation one is exposed to.
NB: This is an extremely brief list of sensory challenges. For more information please contact Sensory UK to assist with determining how you or your child’s presentation affects them.