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Sensory Integration Therapy for disabled children is still at risk.

This petition had 1,350 supporters

Our children need access to Sensory Integration therapy and the local authorities are using a flawed document produced by The College of Occupational Therapists in 2015 and an excuse to deny children vital services.

This petition is to ask the College to withdraw and publicly apologise for their document. 

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In April 2015 a document was published by COT which makes accessing Sensory Integration therapy for our children even more difficult than it already is. Please join me in asking them to withdraw and publicly apologise this document.


What is BAOT / COT?
The British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT) is the professional body and trade union for occupational therapy staff in the UK.  Eight English regions and three countries are represented within its membership.

The College of Occupational Therapists (COT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAOT and operates as a registered charity.  It represents the profession nationally and internationally, and contributes widely to policy consultations throughout the UK.  It sets the professional and educational standards for occupational therapy, providing leadership, guidance and information relating to research and development, education, practice and lifelong learning.

What is the purpose of a practice briefing?

Practice Briefings are written to help practitioners and managers put good practice into place in their agencies and services. For example an OT manager in your area may look to a practice briefing such as this one in order to make sure that the local service they manage is meeting current professional standards and expectations.

What does it say?

The briefing outlines and defines SI Theory and SI Therapy and also the use of Sensory Based Interventions (sensory diet).   It discusses how this relates to Occupational Therapy theory and practice (the way OT’s are supposed to work) and it aims to set out some guidelines for OT’s who use SI as part of their work.

What are the main points / conclusions drawn?

The briefing appears to be trying to discredit the use of SI as an approach to helping our children; it tries to say in a few places that there is a lack of evidence to support SI. The problem is that they have left out any references to newer research which clearly supports the use of SI and shows that it does work.  

The briefing says that SPD is not included in the DSM-V, this is the book which doctors use to find the criteria for diagnosing conditions such as ASD or ADHD. Because SPD’s not listed in the DSM-V book doctors can’t yet make a diagnosis of SPD and there are no NICE guidelines saying what the NHS has to provide. But the briefing leaves out other important points, it doesn’t make clear that there were some important changes put into the DSM-V about sensory processing, such as sensory difficulties now being included when doctors diagnose ASD.

The briefing advises OT’s to use their knowledge of sensory processing difficulties to advise families to make environments such as bedrooms and classrooms more sensory friendly instead of actually using sensory integration therapy.

So for example a child with oversensitivity to noise, may be advised to be in a quieter environment or use ear defenders, rather than receive SI therapy which would help their body to rewire their sensory systems to be able to cope with noisy environments better forever. As a parent I know which I intervention I would prefer for my child.     

Why does this affect me?

As parents we want the best therapies for our children. In the UK it is incredibly difficult for the majority of families to access SI therapy this is because commissioners (the people who pay for the NHS services we get) are not investing time and money in training or employing the therapists who can help our children and young people through Sensory integration therapy. Our children and young people will live with the consequences of this lack of investment for the rest of their lives.

Commissioners have a tough job, the have to decide how they will spend the money that they have on services to help children and families living with conditions such as ASD / ADHD and SPD. There is lots of competition for what the funding can be spent on, and the commissioners have to be careful because they will have to answer for the decisions that they make.

Commissioners have to follow rules and get advice about where they are going to invest what little money they have. As well as taking note of demand from families they also have to look to professional bodies such as COT for advice and guidance when deciding how much if any money will be spent on SI training and therapy for children in the areas where we live.

This briefing affects all of our families because we want access to SI therapy for our children, we want there to be trained OT’s all over the country so that children can have access to SI when they are as young as possible. To bring about the changes we need to make this happen we have to have the support of the professional bodies like COT so that when commissioners look for professional advice and guidance that they see that SI is something worth investing in.

How can I respond to the practice briefing?  

Please sign the petition below, or write to College of Occupational Therapists individually

Today: Sarah is counting on you

Sarah Chierico needs your help with “Julia Scott CEO College of Occupational Therapists: Withdraw the COT Sensory Integration Practice briefing April 2015”. Join Sarah and 1,349 supporters today.