Ayres Sensory Integration® Therapy is a form of sensory evaluation and treatment guided by the works and research of A. Jean Ayres, a pioneer in the field. Although Ms. Ayres passed away in the 1980s, work and research has continued by a group of highly skilled and devoted occupational therapists. These OTs along with distinguished educators and researchers have created the Sensory Integration Research Collaborative (SIRC). SIRC resulted from a research project funded by the National Institutes of Health, with a focus on ensuring that Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI®) is provided only by appropriately trained therapists and in its evidence-based form. To ensure fidelity in ASI®, the Ayres Sensory Integration Fidelity Measure was developed. The information below regarding necessary therapist qualifications, treatment space requirements, and components of a therapy session is taken directly from the ASI® Fidelity Measure.
Any occupational therapist providing sensory integration therapy is expected to have completed post-professional training in sensory integration theory, assessment, and intervention, or be receiving regular mentoring from an occupational therapist with this training. Post-professional training consists of a minimum of 50 hours of continuing education focused on SI theory and practice.
The following US SI certification programs are considered to meet these requirements. There are other certification programs, however, they are currently available only overseas.
In addition to certification, any occupational therapist trained in sensory integration therapy should be able to easily answer question from families and explain the purpose and course of treatment. In the case of OTs who are being mentored by a SI Certified OT, they should be able to collaborate with their mentor to answer questions from families. While there are many sensory-based certifications (i.e., Therapeutic Listening, Astronaut Training, Wilbarger Brushing, etc.), these are recognized as sensory-based treatments and treatment strategies, not sensory integration therapy.
Physical Treatment Environment
When entering a treatment space for ASI® therapists, a number of environmental features will be easily identifiable. These include:
Occupational therapists providing sensory integration therapy will have all of these environmental features available within the treatment space. Additionally, unless there is a safety concern, children should have access to explore and find any equipment or materials that are interesting and motivating.
So what do sensory integration therapy sessions look like? Play! With a highly skilled ASI® therapist, a parent might even wonder if any work is being done at all. However, while observing OT sessions with ASI® therapists, a variety of therapeutic strategies will be employed. If you watch carefully, you should see all of the following ASI® therapeutic strategies being used.
During sensory integration therapy, these therapeutic strategies should be evident in all therapy sessions once a therapeutic alliance has been established.
In addition to these aspects of ASI® therapy, caregiver communication and engagement are necessary. This includes goal setting with the input of children and families, including parent report of educational challenges. Additionally, input from and collaboration with teachers and other important adults should be initiated and ongoing.
Have questions about ASI® and sensory integration therapy? Feel free to contact us!
Referenced information adapted from:
Parham, L. D., et al. (2011). Development of a fidelity measure for research on the effectiveness of the Ayres Sensory Integration® intervention. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65(2), 133–142.