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Occupational Therapy 


In general, occupational therapy (OT) helps individuals gain independence in normal activities of everyday life. The occupations of children with sensory processing disorders (SPD) may include playing with peers and toys, having relationships, academics, and activities of daily living like eating, dressing, sleeping, bathing and toileting.


During OT sessions with Sensory Savvy Kids we build skills through PLAY. Our approach is rooted in relationships as we co-regulate through sensory experiences during child-direct, self-initiated play resulting in sensory integration. This means we work with collaboratively with children to accurately detect, regulate, and interpret sensations, as well as promote an adaptive response or an appropriate reaction to the sensations that allow children to participate in everyday activities to their fullest. 

Therapy is performed in a sensory-friendly environment so that children have the opportunity to experience varied and novel multi-sensations over and over to allow sensory integration. During child-led play, we help the child develop the neural circuits to be more regulated and organized in their bodies, generate ideas and execute goal-directed actions, problem solve, and be socially engaged with others. 

During therapy we grade sensory input to achieve an optimal level of arousal or self-regulation then we facilitate appropriate responses to sensation during child-initiated play in order to help the child achieve the "just right challenge" for learning new skills. Over time, the appropriate responses to sensation start to generalize to the child's natural environment, like home, school, or in the community. 

The emphasis in therapy is:  

Promoting self-regulation and optimal arousal states by providing a responsive relationship and co-regulation during times of stress


Developing automatic and appropriate responses to sensation so that activities can be accomplished  

Not “teaching” a child to do specific tasks or drilling the child to respond

Having the child be an active participant 

Engaging in self-directed play that improves a child’s underlying abilities  

Improving their underlying brain maturity  

Frame of Reference

The therapy framework for OT with Sensory Savvy Kids is based on the STAR Treatment Model and includes components of Ayres’ Sensory Integration, DIR floortime, Polyvagal Theory, and cognitive-behavioral approaches. Therapy with Sensory Savvy Kids is based on arousal, relationships, and engagement at its foundation. This is done through an intensive therapy schedule (3-5x/week) in order to promote neuroplasticity in the brain and nervous system. Neuroplasticity describes our brains ability to change or rewire based upon the amount of exposure we give it. With graded sensory stimulation we can rewire the brain and nervous system to become better at processing and responding to the environment and to the emotions that we feel. As we change our responses to sensation through practice our processing skills start to sharpen and we become more confident in navigating the world and social situations independently.


This type of therapy is play-based and child-led, so most kids don’t even know they are working towards therapeutic goals!  


What makes using the STAR Treatment Model as a reference different than other therapies? 

  1. Empowering parents: parents are present at therapy sessions and we have parent only meetings schedule throughout the course of therapy   

  2. Intensive model: Your child will be seen 3 to 5 times a week. Recent research definitively shows that frequent repetition is needed to make brain and behavioral changes. 

  3. Short-term therapy: typically kids are seen for 30 sessions total. If a child needs more another intensive 30 sessions can be done or we add “boosters” of therapy on an as needed basis  

  4. Relationship-based treatment: we co-regulate your child's arousal/regulation by building relationships during sessions  

  5. Sensory integration therapy: Ayre's sensory integration is a frame of reference used as a modality during play. 

  6. Play-based, child-led sessions: Focus on play as a platform for learning and creating adaptive responses to sensation 

  7. Functional, family centered, and trackable goals: noticeable changes to improve your families quality of life 

  8. Process-based therapy sessions: Sessions focus on the process verses being activity based with a set of predetermined number of activities that the child will complete. What matters most is maintaining an optimal level of arousal, back and forth communication, stopping impulsive actions, following directions, and initiating new ideas! 

  9. A SECRET: You will not be given a “sensory diet”, but rather will be taught to problem solve in the moment to meet your child’s sensory needs by using a concept called “A SECRET” developed by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, the STAR Institute founder.  

  10. It is fun: Therapy is focused on joyful interactions and kids tend to enjoy coming to therapy  


An intensive treatment model is based on the latest research by Dr. Lucy J. Miller and Dr. Sarah Schoen at the STAR Institute for SPD. Repetition is needed to make brain changes and achieves faster progress towards therapy goals and substantial positive change in daily life for children with SPD. After completing the intensive program clients may return for "booster" sessions on an as needed basis.

This program includes: 

Evaluation to determine sensory subtypes

Bursts of 30 treatment sessions 3-5 times per week

Parent only meetings every few weeks

A list of strategies called "A SECRET" to help parents problem solve in natural settings through sensory-related behaviors 

Tracking sheet to determine change in the quality of life of your family throughout the course of treatment 

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