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Sensory Strategies: Sanity Restoration for Family Life- Part 1

Sensory Strategies: Sanity Restoration for Family Life- Part 1
Rondalyn V. Whitney, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA
August 5, 2016

Rondalyn Whitney: It is an honor to be here. I am excited to have an opportunity to talk about sensory processing. I think one of the things that is very important is that more and more people are understanding sensory processing as an intervention of importance. You need to know how to link this to occupations, to day-to-day life, and how to link that in a way that really meets the objective of helping families live their life in the way that they want to live it and to do the things that they want to do. That is really what we are going to be talking about in this series of webinars, Part 1, 2, and 3. I am very excited that we have had the opportunity to put this program together for you guys. 

I have used a lot of photographs of my own family because I think it is important to show that I really do walk my talk. Actually, I have two sons, but I live with my younger child who is definitely a "Dennis the Menace". I think we all have moments or many moments when we are raising children and scratching our heads trying to figure it out. We used to live in a society where grandma or an aunt was nearby. We had our extended families close enough, but now we are scattered across the continent and we are trying to figure this out on our own. Sensory strategies are a very important tool to put in our toolkit for parenting.

The learning objectives for today are to really look at the basics. We will start at the basics, then we will build up. Today we are going to work on understanding and recognizing those sensory pathways within the sensory and nervous systems, so that we can talk about those and start to really learn by the time we get to Part 3 and figure out how to use them as a tool. If you do not understand how to use a hammer, it is hard to figure out when to reach for one. Today is really about understanding the sensory system so that we can begin to pull it out and use it with some purposefulness.

The second objective for today is to identify those patterns of sensory processing and associated behaviors. We have been fortunate that a lot of great researchers have put together some information for us and packaged the sensory nervous system in a way that they start showing up as patterns. When we can identify those patterns, we can start to think about what kind of kid do I have, or what kind of person am I, or what kind of boss do I have, or what kind of partner do I have. How do we put those together in a way that we can all get along and honor each other, and use some of the strategies to help us all figure it out?

The third learning objective for today is to describe the interplay between the sensory system and those internalizing and externalizing behaviors that either promote or interrupt our day-to-day engagement and occupations. How does the sensory system work with day-to-day life and how can we use that sensory system as a tool for doing the things we want to do? Or how do we notice them when they are interrupting the things we want to do and then reach in and get that tool?  The optimum outcome is engaging in the things that we want to do, and of course we call those occupations.


Again, the first learning objective is to recognize the accessory pathways within the nervous system. Let's start to look at that, but I think one of the first things that comes up when we talk about sensory processing and sensory integration as a therapeutic intervention and as a theoretical construct, is, "Well, there's no evidence for this." That is one of the craziest things that I have ever heard. I always like to start as a researcher and a scientist with answering the question "what is evidence?", because we are going to be talking about evidence throughout this webinar.

I think it is important to understand that most people, when they say there is no evidence (Figure 1). 


Figure 1. Levels of evidence.

rondalyn v whitney

Rondalyn V. Whitney, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Rondalyn Whitney’s research focuses on emotional disclosure to reduce stress and improve quality of life and family quality of life when raising a child with disabilities.  She is the author of more than 6 books, her work has been published in over 10 scholarly journals and she is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She serves as a reviewer for several journals.

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