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Why aren't learning disabilities mentioned when discussing sensory integration and sensory processing topics?

Cindy Clough, MS, OT

December 28, 2015

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Question

Learning disabilities seemed not to be mentioned with sensory integration and sensory processing. Is there a reason?

Answer

Actually, yes, there is a reason. Jean Ayres’ original 1950's, 1960's, even 1970's work was all around learning disabilities and children who were experiencing learning disabilities. The original sensory integration stuff came from that literature. As Shaw pointed out correctly, most of that literature and research has been widely discredited even within the profession because it does not meet today’s scientific methodology rigor. More of our literature has gone towards children with autism or children that we see as having exclusive sensory processing type of disorders and not so much focused on learning disabilities.

The original Jean Ayres' work looked at if we did sensory integration therapy and were able to integrate vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile functions, and treat that underlying brain stem responses, we would automatically see improvements in reading and in writing and other academic outcomes. The methodology is not really supported by today’s standards. We went in a different direction with the research more around autism and not so much around learning disabilities.


cindy clough

Cindy Clough, MS, OT

Cindy is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM) in the Occupational Therapy Program. Cindy serves as the primary course instructor for the pediatric course work in the occupational therapy curriculum. Cindy has worked in birth-to-three settings, outpatient pediatric settings, and has worked in school-based special education programs. Having been inspired by her work in school districts, Cindy completed a Master’s of Science Degree in Administrative Leadership with a Pupil Services focus in 2008. In addition to her commitment to improving services for children identified as needing special education services, Cindy works with educators to advocate for equity in educational practices for all students. She is currently pursuing her PhD in the Social Foundations of Urban Education at UWM.


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