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A 5-Part Series About Integrating All of Our Systems

Optimal performance depends on the functional integration of our sensory systems. This 5-part series offers health care professionals information about each sensory system’s direct influence on our ability to function in a busy world. We’ll explore the neuroanatomy and physiology, assessment for dysfunction and functional ramifications of each system. We will discuss the dynamic inter-relationships among all of the sensory systems. Through lecture and visual representation, participants will develop a greater understanding of the importance of working with sensory systems to improve abilities in movement, communication, socialization and learning.

Can’t make a session? You can access the On-Demand version later.

Part 1: Our Whole Brain in a Big World

As clinicians, we are rarely invited to assess and treat individuals with single-system impairments. When doing evaluations, we often find that issues exist in more than one area.  Due to the extensive neurological, anatomical and physiological interplay of body structures, particularly among the vestibular, visual and auditory systems, we can use a pathway into one sensory system to enhance the functional skill in others. This discussion will enhance understanding of those relationships and ways to intervene using a multi-system, dynamic approach to treatment for developing a solid foundation for learning and independence.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Explain how auditory and vestibular systems are related.
  • Explain how the vestibular system influences functional visual skills.
  • List treatment activities which incorporate ‘the triad’ of these systems and describe the functional outcomes that may be achieved.
  • Describe how “state” can affect functional use of sensory information from the environment.
Whole Brain

Part 2: Our Auditory System

Our auditory system receives information about our world from all directions, allowing us to focus on or dampen out sounds as needed for an appropriate response – whether physical or verbal.  The auditory system is a critical component in communication and higher learning.   When dysfunction exists within the auditory system, information about our world can become distorted, be incomplete and/or misunderstood.  The auditory system must be efficiently organized in order for us to develop language skills, succeed academically and to communicate effectively. This discussion will review the components of auditory processing, how deficits in these components present in a variety of functional settings and therapeutic interventions that can be utilized to improve them.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the difference between hearing and listening.
  • Understand 4 functional and therapeutic connections between the vestibular and auditory systems.
  • Define the auditory subsystems of sound localization, auditory discrimination, binaural processing, temporal processing, auditory figure ground and auditory closure.
  • Describe specific treatment considerations and strategies for improving sound localization/lateralization/ orientation, auditory discrimination, binaural processing, temporal processing, auditory figure ground and auditory closure relevant to all disciplines.
  • Describe how activities to strengthen the vestibular sense can aid in auditory processing
Auditory System

Part 3: Our Vestibular System

The vestibular (or balance) system is very important, even from birth, to help us develop a keen sense of where our body is in relationship to self, others and objects in their environments.  This complex system detects head position and is influenced by movement and gravity.  When vestibular dysfunction occurs, significant problems are seen in orientation to time and place, movement, balance, coordination and visual processing.  It communicates significantly with the visual and auditory systems to provide an axis of stability upon which learning (of all types) can occur.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Recognize the vestibular receptors and how each detects and processes movement.
  • Understand common causes of vestibular dysfunction.
  • Describe 3 clinical observations of vestibular dysfunction when seen during play and movement.
  • List 3 treatment activities to improve the vestibular system through use of rotary/linear movement and integration with other sensory systems.
  • Describe the role of vestibular integration with other sensory systems.
Vestibular System

Part 4: Our Visual System

A highly integrated sensory system, vision helps us orient to our world to absorb details, shapes, colors, distance and relationships. The visual system helps us to direct movement, derive meaning and inform action. It can have instant and long-term effects in the motivation of the child to explore and learn. This talk will emphasize visual processing versus visual acuity with methods for assessment and intervention of functional vision. Interplay with the vestibular system allows us to use vision to refine movement.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe 6 key differences between focal and ambient vision.
  • List 4 elements of importance of vision for learning, communication and socialization.
  • Explain visual subsystems such as skills of fixation, pursuits, saccades, accommodation, vergence, binocular vision, field of vision and acuity.
  • Discuss treatment strategies to enhance coordination of eye movement, vergence, accommodation and separation of eye/head movement.
  • Describe ways in which working with the visual system can enhance other sensory systems or sensory integration.
Visual System

Part 5: Our Somatosensory System

Comprising our largest sensory organ – the skin- the tactile system is crucial to the development of bonding, attachment, interaction and functional engagement with our environment. This system, along with our proprioceptive process (tactile + proprioceptive = somatosensory), provides orientation to space and objects, awareness of self within space, as well as properties of time, space, rhythm and structure of the body. An efficient somatosensory system is a relevant piece to living independent, productive lives; yet it is an area that is easily damaged and impaired with critical ramifications for learning and behavior. This presentation will detail the mechanisms of processing information from our skin, joints/muscles and the relevance to our daily lives.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Describe the progression of the touch process from most tolerated to least comfortable.
  • Understand the functional and therapeutic connection between the tactile and proprioceptive systems.
  • List 5 types of input detected and processed by receptors of the somatosensory system.
  • Identify 3 clinical observations of somatosensory dysfunction in clinical, social and educational environments.
  • Describe how the somatosensory system is important in creating a body image and supporting balance through its interaction with the vestibular system.
Somatosensory System

About the Instructors

Jennifer Griffith, OTR, and Misty Standard, CCC-SLP
Founding Partners, Milestones Therapeutic Associates, a multidisciplinary pediatric outpatient rehabilitation facility
Co-Founders, Minds on the Move, a clinical consulting/education firm.

Since graduating from University of Texas Medical Branch in 1988, Jennifer has provided Occupational Therapy services to both children and adults in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, acute care, home health, early childhood intervention, and schools. Driven by her interest in the influence of sensory processing on the abilities of the individuals with which she has worked, she has pursued extensive/ongoing training and research in the area of sensory integration and processing. Certified to administer and interpret multiple assessments, including the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT), Jennifer uses her evaluation and analytical skills to develop intervention plans that are typically completed in an intensive therapy format.    Jennifer has lectured on the local, state and national levels, and partnered with her colleague Misty Standard in 2009 to form a professional education/consultation firm.

Misty is a speech-language pathologist with over 18 years of experience in both pediatrics and adult rehabilitation. She holds several certifications, including a certificate in pediatric neurodevelopmental therapy and is the recipient of multiple ACE awards from the American Speech and Hearing Association. Her professional career has focused on sensory integration, auditory processing and whole-body interventions, finding the most successful outcomes for her clients by utilizing a combined bottom-up and top-down approach. Her practice primarily consists of children with a variety of diagnosis and severity levels exhibiting auditory processing and sensory processing disorders. Misty has lectured on the local, state and national levels, and partnered with her colleague Jennifer Griffith in 2009 to form a professional education/consultation firm.

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