An excerpt from the Spring 2010 Newsletter
Developing Healing Spaces and Treatment for Attachment, Trauma and Sensory Processing Disorder
As the natural developmental association between sensory input and psychic experience becomes better understood, the two forms of therapy may profit from joining forces. What is rocking and being cuddled other than tactile and vestibular stimulation plus an interpersonal relationship? Are not the neural traces for the sensory and the social aspects of the experience laid down as one in the brain? Are not many of the child’s important emotional experiences in the first five years of life closely associated on an experiential and therefore neurological basis with their sensorimotor equivalents?”
— A. Jean Ayres, 1972, Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders, p. 266
Many children who have experienced early traumatic events such as institutionalization, foster care, adoption, death of a loved one, abuse and neglect, hospitalization as a preemie or young child are at risk for developing attachment problems and developmental traumatic symptoms.1 In addition, many of these children also have sensory processing problems, currently referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), as well as sensory integration dysfunction.2 It is important to address intervention in a developmental sequence, working from the brain stem level up (the level where sensory integration is first occurring) in healing from trauma.3
The goals for intervention for children with trauma, attachment, and sensory integration problems are to:
· Help the child to learn co-regulation and then self-regulation skills; · Help the child to gain the ability to form attachments to a parent; · Change the nervous system’s responses over time to effect permanent change in both reactions to trauma triggers and in improving sensory processing; and · Improve postural and motor skills and organizational abilities, as well as consistent social emotional responses that are growth producing.
New models are being developed to address these goals. One model is SMART (see box on page 2) that focuses on a combination of trauma treatment and sensory integration principles. Another is SAFE PLACE, a combination of attachment and sensory integration principles, developed by psychologist Daniel Hughes and OTA’s Jane Koomar, who holds degrees in psychology and occupational therapy. SAFE refers to sensory attunement focused environments and PLACE refers to playfulness, love, acceptance, curiosity and empathy. Dr. Hughes wrote the book Building the Bonds of Attachment, a case composite that reads like a novel, to help parents learn about his PLACE model of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. This therapy has parents fully involved, enabling children with poor attachment to bond with parents during therapy rather than the therapist. The first attachment bond needs to be developed with the parent if at all possible.
· Help the child to learn co-regulation and then self-regulation skills;
· Help the child to gain the ability to form attachments to a parent;
· Change the nervous system’s responses over time to effect permanent change in both reactions to trauma triggers and in improving sensory processing; and
· Improve postural and motor skills and organizational abilities, as well as consistent social emotional responses that are growth producing.
Some ideas based on Dan Hughes’ model are as follows:
· Delight in the child; allow the child to know how much you enjoy him or her.
· Match the vitality level of the emotion expressed by the child. This means if the child is angry, match the child’s intensity of emotion with the same level of affect such as: “My, I am curious as to what is making such big feelings for you right now!”
· Talk for the child if the child is not able to express emotions verbally very well, and check in with the child regarding your accuracy after speaking for him or her.
Within the course, a variety of principles will be shared. One is a model from sensory integration, referred to as the Environmental Matrices, that can be combined with PLACE to assist parents and therapists is creating spaces in their homes and their child’s schools that facilitate healing and development. This model was developed by Richter and Oetter (1991). They expanded the work of Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book the Magical Child to create this model. The elements of the four spaces are detailed below:
Womb Space – a place for relaxation, rest, reflection.
To read more, click the 2010 Spring link below.
May 22, 2013 - Dealing with Friends and Family
June 26, 2013 - Getting Ready for Summer