Category Archives: Care Professional Contributions

We like to invite occupational therapists, sensory integration specialists and other care professionals that we have built a working relationship with to contribute to our blog. This offers a great insight into what they do and how we work together to improve people’s lives.

Oral Motor – A Sensory Perspective

Sensory processing and integration provides body control,

Chew Pendants

Chew Pendants

underpins all normative functioning and enables decision-making. It impacts on how we move, plan and co-ordinate our motor functioning, communicate, behave, develop and participate occupationally. A lack of regulated sensory control means people cannot engage effectively in everyday life activities. Dysfunctions in sensory processing therefore significantly impact on life quality.

Oral motor difficulties are a key current issue and we are regularly asked for more resources to help support this need (a new Oral Motor Kit will be launched in 2015 – watch this space!). Inappropriate behaviours exhibited that people can find confusing/distressing are:

  • Mouthing non-food items (chewing, licking, eating, biting, self-harming, tugging and shredding clothes/soft furnishings etc. with teeth. Rolling/spitting bits of chewed items)
  • Not being able or refusing to feed independently
  • Spitting out food/gagging when eating
  • Experiencing a very restricted diet with avoidance of certain foods.
  • Poor oral hygiene (cleaning teeth intolerance)

So, why does this happen?

Circular Chew Pendant

Circular Chew Pendant

Taking a sensory perspective, imagine you cannot understand or put into context the feelings and sensations that your body is experiencing or feeling (light/texture/smell/taste/sound). Maybe these are experienced as so overwhelmingly intense that you want to withdraw because the input is unpleasant. Sensory input may be so minimal/distant that you can’t hardly register it so you may seek greater/more extreme input to enable you to experience this. Sensory input can be experienced as painful or irritating. You may not understand what this input is, know what to do or be able to co-ordinate an appropriate response. Self-stimulatory behaviour such as chewing/biting can be a way of comforting, relieve anxiety, reduce fear and initiated to prevent sensory overload.

There may be other reasons why these behaviours occur and clinical assessments, profiling and observation will identify causal issue/s and establish clinical reasoning.

Taking the oral motor example, perhaps the individual;

  • doesn’t like the texture of what they are eating.
  • doesn’t like food going where they can’t see it.
  • has a poor chewing pattern.
  • can’t feel the food, perhaps there isn’t enough sensation to register the feelings of the food properly in the mouth and this feels unpleasant/painful or tickly.
  • has fine motor skill, visual or cognitive difficulties.

A sensory approach may include consideration of interventions such as:

  • Texture – Crunchy/harder textured food such as foods that you need to bite hard on such as apples. Food with inclusions (e.g. seeds/nuts etc)
  • Sucking & Licking – Thicker drinks though straws. Ice lolly.
  • Taste – sour, sweet, spicy
  • Vibration – electric toothbrush
  • Temperature – Experimentation with cold and hot. Using ice cubes, perhaps with just water, or perhaps a “taste” object inside or use flavoured water or juice. Try fizzy foods, popping candy.
  • Chewing – Offering safe chewing products. Chewing flavoured gum or chewy foods. We offer a variety here –
  • Blowing activities – blow feathers/paper around with straws? Blow through a straw in the bath to make bubbles. Blow raspberries. We sell blow lotto here –
  • Movement – Geurning – pulling silly faces, sticking tongue out. We have a therapy mirror here –


Advent House Sensory Room

The experience of sourcing and costing a sensory room for people with learning difficulties, physical and sensory impairments, autism and mental health needs is a tall order. Deciding on equipment is a minefield, do we need bubble tubes? Yes. Do we need soft furnishings? Yes. Do we need seating and bean bags? yes. Will it be safe? The ultimate question. When I was discussing a new service with the Jayne, the Responsible Individual, the sensory room was high on the wish list. What shall we buy? How much will it cost? What about people with autism, physical needs, sensory needs? Jayne and I are both from a nursing background in the learning disability field we had both worked with ROMPA® products before so after a look at the catalogue and seeing a plethora of equipment we were both undecided about the amount of equipment we would need to fill the space we had.

We phoned ROMPA® and arranged a meeting where we could look and try the equipment and experience what our service users would. We were greeted by friendly knowledgeable staff who showed off their equipment. What a truly fantastic experience it was, we were introduced to Sensory Magic. The company showed off and championed this equipment – and why not it is truly a magical piece of kit. I can remember coming out of the experience “buzzing” and daring to ask if we could afford this unique, quality piece of kit.  After negotiations with the Directors we were told to look into the next steps of costing and measuring up. The ROMPA® team came up to our house whilst it was being built, took specifications, liaised with the building team and developed a blue print of the sensory room along with a 3D drawing of what it would look like when it was completed. The 3D picture was stuck on the door of the sensory room and whilst commissioning I explained to people who were interested in placing service users with us that “this is what it will look like when it’s finished”

When the electrics and the tracking and hoists were in place the technical team from ROMPA® came and fitted all the equipment we had asked for, stayed and showed us how to use it and gave us the confidence to work with the system utilising it to the max. For the first week or so the room got used at every opportunity and I introduced it to other Managers who I work alongside – I thought that maybe there would be a decline in it’s use after the initial novelty period. How wrong I was! Other homes started to book time in to use it and we started to have events where we could use the sensory room for multiple uses for multiple service users.

The upshot of this is that we have a quality piece of equipment that has multiple uses, is safe, is suitable for many different service users, is adaptable, can be upgraded, has a technical support that is second to none (they can even solve problems from their base in Chesterfield whilst we are in Wakefield).

The feedback we have received is of admiration of the room and it’s equipment, not solely from the people who use it but from the support workers, families of service users, commissioners, people who come to do training at the service and the people who regulate us the C.Q.C. However, the feedback doesn’t just equate to people telling us what they think of the room, they keep coming back!

Richard Burton
Registered Manager

Massage for children with ASD or SPD

senSI - Sensory Integration Therapy As a Holistic and Beauty Therapist with a background in SEN, I was asked by senSI Limited to consider providing Complimentary Therapies for children they work with, with a population predominately having Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).    I was excited by this opportunity, as I recognise how massage can make a big impact on someone both emotionally and physically, and that few clinics and centres offer such treatments for children, with or without additional needs. Touch is an important influence on a child’s healthy development and in my opinion, whether you have a treatment for relaxation or to ease aches and pains, massage should be an essential for life for all ages.


Adapting Complimentary Therapy for children with Sensory Processing Disorders

I have applied my knowledge and understanding of Swedish Body Massage and adapted the approach for children with ASD and SPD.  senSI complete an initial assessment and from this, identify whether massage, reiki, relaxation sessions etc would be helpful.  Together we devise a treatment plan to incorporate their needs.  I always discuss the treatment plan with both parents and the child, as it is very important to me that the child is comfortable and feels safe.

  • We create visual aids to support the child, i.e. body maps to help them anticipate the touch, stop signs for children who struggle to express this verbally, pressure indicator to help them remain in control as to the amount of force they like.
  • We use sandtimers if needed, to help with predictability so that the child is as comfortable as they can be before we start.
  • Due to Olfactory sensitivity, I use non-scented products
  • Due to Vestibular sensitivity/ gravitational insecurity, I am flexible in how I position the child, and understand if they cannot manage to tolerate backward space or a supine position.
  • I use inflatable mattresses and equipment if this gentle vestibular movement helps the child relax
  • I use white noise within sessions if the child likes this
  • I use dimmed lighting for the child with visual sensitivity
  • I use aromatherapy and scents for a child who is olfactory seeking
  • I use weighted eye masks, weighted blankets and other equipment throughout sessions, and at the end of the therapy, which most of the children have positively commented on
  • I use natural warmth, such as warm towels and hot water bottles to help promote the sense of calm
  • I use the child’s motivators and special interests within my sessions i.e. Thomas the Tank Engine visuals and pillows for example

I only use relaxing methods and work on only hands and feet to begin with and over various sessions build to include additional limbs.  Currently I am working with a 10 year boy who would only let me work on his hands, forearms, feet and lower legs however now, after his sixth session I have been able to provide massage on his neck and face.  This is hugely encouraging for the child, parents and me.  They were all surprised that he has let me provide such a thorough treatment.  Furthermore, to watch their child lie for an hour and relax (almost to the point of being asleep) is something that his parents thought they would never see. This makes my job extremely rewarding.



We have found that for some children with ASD and SPD, massage seems to often provide relaxation, stress reduction and calm muscle spasms.  Over time, touch therapy also helps the child to become more accustomed to tactile stimulation and really helps develop body awareness.  Often by incorporating massage therapy into daily routines, children with ASD may experience improved sleeping.

Here a few other reasons why massage therapy can be beneficial;

  • Better sensory regulation
  • Better self regulation, with children more able to identify feelings of stress and strategies that can help them relax
  • Improved motor skills, especially for children with ADHD we have found
  • Body awareness –  touch and proprioception feedback
  • Emotional development
  • Enhanced Attachment, especially when we teach the caregivers certain techniques to apply to their child, rather than be therapist led
  • Improved Self-esteem / confidence
  • Self awareness
  • Improved daily living skills, particularly washing and dressing
  • Ability to recognise the difference between good and bad touch
  • Improved bonding with one case, where I have taught the parents basic massage principles and they have been facilitating this with their child

I hope you have found this useful and should you be interested in a treatment for your child in East Anglia, please contact me at; or via senSI at

Thank You!


Holistic Therapist

senSI Limited

Jigsaw Occupational Therapy

Today we welcome a blog contribution from Dominic Simpson of Jigsaw Occupational Therapy.

Jigsaw Occupational Therapy is a specialist provider for childrenJigsaw Occupational Therapy and young people living in the South East of England. We work with children and young people experiencing a wide array of profound and multiple disabilities. Some of these conditions include cerebral palsy, autism and Asperger’s, sensory processing disorders, acquired brain injuries, motor coordination difficulties and learning disabilities.

Jigsaw OT was founded in 2010, by Vicky Ruffle, in order to offer more effective and personalised assessments and therapy specifically designed around each individual child and young person’s needs, in addition to providing assistance and training to school staff, parents and carers. Jigsaw OT has two additional occupational therapists (Mel Campbell and Kaye Johnson) and each of our OT’s are trained sensory integration practitioners too and advanced sensory integration therapy level or up to level 3.

Jigsaw Sensory Integration

We have just opened a dedicated assessment and sensory integration therapy centre, the first and only one of it’s kind in Sussex. We are also working closely with local schools in the mid-sussex area, maximising children’s access to education and social inclusion.

Our new therapy room is filled to the brim with Rompa equipment and resources but the most popular Rompa equipment that the children have just loved, have been the Beano Swing, Southpaw Large Inflatable Barrel and of course the fantastic Soft Play Super Set. In fact, we’ve seen some great activities involving all three items at once! One recent task was to use the Beano Swing to knock down a tower made from the Soft Play Super Set, aiding a child seeking ‘crash and bump’ sensation and then also using the Beano Swing to drop down into the up-turned barrel helping motor planning and body awareness.

We are planning an open day on the 17th June, where we will open the doors of the centre to anyone who would be interested in visiting us to view our facilities, chat to our occupational therapists and learn more about what Jigsaw OT can offer.

For more information please visit