Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory processing issues are very common for children with ASD, and some of Oskar’s sensory challenges are explored in the film. Both Oskar and his older brother Ted seem especially sensitive to light and sound, and one of Carly’s goals is to help them manage and/or avoid sensory overload: “For Oskar and Ted, our plan has always been to work with an occupational therapist who can implement sensory integration therapies. The goal is to slowly find ways for the body to adjust and create filters to help deal with the constant influx of light and sound from the environment around them. This takes a lot of time and should be done in a caring way so that the child doesn’t feel threatened or in emotional or physical pain.”
“For Oskar and Ted, our plan has always been to work with an occupational therapist who can implement sensory integration therapies. The goal is to slowly find ways for the body to adjust and create filters to help deal with the constant influx of light and sound from the environment around them. This takes a lot of time and should be done in a caring way so that the child doesn’t feel threatened or in emotional or physical pain.”
Most of us combine and use information collected from our senses without thinking. But for children with autism, oversensitivity to and/or trouble processing sensory information profoundly shapes their interaction with the world. Sensory difficulties can even underlie atypical body postures, clumsiness, and behaviours such as spinning and rocking. Researchers believe this is because autism entails a complex dysfunction of the central nervous system, which determines our ability to manage sensory information, which in turn shapes cognitive development, learning and behaviour.
Sensory integration therapy aims to train the child’s nervous system to respond to stimulus in a more manageable way. The therapist identifies the child’s unique combination of challenges and provides appropriate conditioning regimens and strategies for regulating sensory stimulation. Every therapy program is tailored to the individual, but the therapist typically works in a special play room set up for an array of activities (for example, crawling through tunnels, balancing on a beam, hanging upside-down, tumbling in a playpen filled with plastic balls). Studies on this therapy show promising results and the techniques are widely practiced by occupational therapists.
To learn more about Carly and Stef’s experience with sensory integration therapy visit her blog, The Muddy Path.
A note from Carly & Stef
We invited director Steve Suderman to share our story with the hope that our experience would offer comfort to other families facing similar experiences, and provide insight into life with a special needs child for those who aren’t familiar with the highs and lows of parenting on the spectrum.
This film portrays the beginning of our journey and our story is far from over. We hope that the film demonstrates that there is no single “correct” way to approach the task of supporting your child on their developmental path. We wanted to empower parents to do their own research, and make choices with the intention that they can help their child to thrive, regardless of their diagnosis. We think the film Steve made does this and this website has some additional videos and information for those who want to find out more about topics and therapies featured in the film.
For parents of children with autism the first year after diagnosis can be confusing and tiring. At times you might feel that you can never do enough research, the options are endless, and the developmental milestones can seem unattainable. The important thing to remember is that as parents it is our job to advocate, observe and use our gut instincts! It's not "one size fits all” and different therapies work for different children. Try therapies that your gut tells you might be a good fit for what you are seeing in your child, and maybe stop anything that doesn’t seem to work since you can always try again later. You know your child better than anyone else and you can trust that instinct.
Lastly, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. There are lots of free things in books or the internet that you can do or try at home. Don’t break the bank – listen to your gut!
Statement of Values
For a year director Steve Suderman followed Carly, Stef and their five children, as the family faced each challenge and joy that arose since their son Oskar’s autism diagnosis. Throughout the film Carly and Stef try a range of therapies and treatments; all out of love for their son and the desire to connect with him. The intent of the documentary is not to endorse or dissuade from any particular treatment. Rather, our hope is that the film will communicate the experience of a family touched by autism, something parents can share with family, caregivers, and friends to offer an insight into their world.
We believe that autism is a unique way of being in the world. We advocate for inclusion, respect, and increased services that make tangible differences in the lives of those on the spectrum - and their families. We hope that this collection of articles and videos from our team and other third-party sources will help provide a fuller picture of the treatments, therapies, and ideas explored in the film.
Carly and Stef, the family featured in this film, maintain a blog called The Muddy Path. Please check it out to learn more about their experiences raising a family with children on the autism spectrum.
The Muddy Path: Sensory Integration
“When you think about it we ALL have some sort of sensory issues. Personally, I can’t stand the smell of most perfumes and had to hold my breath and run through the fragrance sections of the department stores when I was a kid…”
In the process of making this film, we collected a lot of additional material we wanted to share. We hope you find it helpful.
Sensory Integration: Astronaut Training and Therapeutic Listening
Occupational therapist Elizabeth Bell discusses her practice of sensory integration theory, originally developed by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, which uses movement and play to help children with hyposensitivity issues. The therapy also uses music with a range of frequencies to trigger sensory responses in the child.
Temple Grandin: Approaching sensory processing problems in autism
Dr. Temple Grandin explains the various forms of sensory processing difficulties characteristic of children with autism, and suggests ways to help your child overcome these challenges.
Understanding autistic ‘behaviours’ related to sensory processing challenges
Jackie McMillan describes autistic behaviours related to sensory processing challenges.
Stimming: As a way to cope with stress
Jackie McMillan describes how people living with autism cope with stress and the role of stimming in self-calming.
Comfort in Routine: Noticing the small details
Jackie McMillan explains how people living with autism experience and recall information and details.
Learn more about the people and ideas featured in the film.
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