I will be conducting interviews with health care professionals and therapists. The interviews are based on questions I have had in the past as well as other moms. The goal is to provide additional resources for reference.
Angie Voss, OTR/L is a registered and licensed occupational therapist with over 20 years of experience working with children with sensory differences. She is the owner of Sensory Solutions, PLLC located in Boise, Idaho. Angie’s scope of practice also includes extensive experience as a presenter of sensory workshops for parents as well as sensory training for various organizations and businesses including educators, therapists, physicians, and other medical professionals. Angie has published an information based brochure to promote sensory awareness and understanding with emphasis on early intervention, and sensory signals and red flags in infancy.
She has published two books: “Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals” and “Your Essential Guide to Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder”. Her third book will be released on March 16, 2012 “The Survival Guide for Travelling with a Sensory Kiddo”. She is the owner of UnderstandingSPD.com, a membership and resource based website with a focus on promoting awareness and respect for sensory processing disorder (SPD).
1. What are the causes of Sensory Integration Issues?
The causes of SPD are variable and often of unknown etiology. The exact cause has not yet been identified. Research suggests a few possible links: prematurity of birth, prenatal or birth complications, environmental factors (such as drug or alcohol use during pregnancy or sensory deprivation in an orphanage), and also a possible genetic and inherited link.
2. What advice would you give to parents who just received a Sensory Integration Diagnosis?
I recently wrote a comprehensive blog post on this topic specifically. Please refer to this article for in depth information and advice. http://www.understandingspd.com/1/post/2012/01/my-child-has-sensory-processing-disorder-spdnow-what.html
3. What techniques would you recommend to drill down and determine which therapy resolves a specific sensory issue?
I truly believe and have witnessed over and over again…the success to sensory integrative treatment and overall progress and success is the daily carry over of a comprehensive sensory diet, a sensory enriched life, and respecting a child for exactly who they are and the sensory signals in which they present to you.
4. Based on the severity of the issues, which sensory areas should you address to yield the best benefit for your child? For example, if a child has vestibular, proprioceptive, oral defensiveness, should you work on vestibular prior to assist with feeding issues?
I discuss this topic in “Your Essential Guide to Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder” in Chapter 3 : The Power Sensations. Working on the sensory foundation skills of vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile input are actually helping the entire nervous system process more efficiently and effectively. These 3 senses in turn are considered the power sensations…in the skyscraper of life and development, without a sturdy, stable, and strong foundation, you will see delays, deficits, and difficulties in many areas.
5. How do you manage feeding issues and oral defensiveness?
I discuss this topic in both of my books as well, going over specific sensory signals related to oral sensory differences, as well as a chapter in “Your Essential Guide to Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder” on oral sensory needs and differences.
6. What issues do Sensory kids have with potty training?
Quite often sensory children under-register sensory information, specifically proprioception. The interoceptors, which are sensory receptors in the gut and internal organs, are like proprioceptors. The interoceptors register the feeling of needing to go to the bathroom as well as other internal sensations such as being hungry or full. Other issues that play a part in potty training can be the different sensations which go hand in hand with switching from diapers to the use of the toilet. And sensory kiddos are often resistant to change, where as potty training is a HUGE change and can be a challenge simply for that reason.
7. Discuss the importance of a daily sensory diet.
An enriched sensory diet is crucial for all of our brains for self-regulation, adapting and processing sensory input, and for children with SPD it is just as important as food. The sensory nutrition is essential for development.
8. What sensory tools should parents have in the home?
Here is a list of the essentials:
• An indoor swing
• Something to bounce on such as a hippity hop ball, mini-trampoline, or BOSU ball
• A sensory retreat
• A large therapy ball
• Weighted blanket or compression clothing
• Variable items depending on the child’s sensory needs…oral sensory tool, fidget toys, noise cancelling headphones, sunglasses or large brimmed hat.
9. Discuss the benefits of early intervention
Prior to age 3, the brain has a great amount of neuroplasticity…this is when it is ideal to help the brain hard wire and learn to process sensory information correctly. As the child ages, this becomes more and more difficult to actually change the brain and how it processes information. Research suggests after approximately age 10, it is extremely difficult to change how the brain processes. At this point, the focus of OT becomes teach coping skills and sensory strategies to help a child throughout life.
10. How do parents with sensory kids educate family, doctors and educators on SPD?
I have created free printable handouts just for these scenarios and they are available on my website. I suggest bringing the appropriate handout to doctor’s appointments, your child’s teacher or daycare provider, etc. And there are also handouts for dentist visits and hospital procedures. The handouts promote awareness and understanding as well as provide sensory recommendations for the presented situation. http://www.understandingspd.com/request-for-diagnosis.html
11. What advice would you provide parents who sit their sensory kids in front of the TV or allows them to utilize electronic devices because it keeps them calm?
I recently wrote an article on this as well. http://www.understandingspd.com/1/post/2012/02/little-house-on-the-sensory-prairie.html
12. What was your greatest accomplishment as an Occupational Therapist?
I have always been told I have a gift in how I connect with children and understand their sensory differences and sensory signals. There is no greater feeling as an OT then when you connect with a child who is often misunderstood and judged and not accepted for exactly who they are. This is without a doubt my greatest accomplishment.