Where Can I Find a Qualified Sensory Integration Therapist

Article By: Lisa Jo Rudy, About.com

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Question: Where Can I Find a Qualified Sensory Integration Therapist?

Many occupational therapists provide what they call sensory integration therapy for their patients with autism. But are they really qualified? How would you know?

Answer: Many of the people who offer sensory integration (SI) therapy are not fully trained in the field. As a result, they may not conduct a full evaluation -- instead offering bits and pieces of therapy to all children with a certain diagnosis. Brushing arms and legs, compressing joints, swinging, spinning and bouncing are all part of the SI approach. But they may or may not be appropriate to any given child.
Says Dr. Lucy Jane Miller, director of the Knowledge in Development (KID) Foundation, which specializes in sensory dysfunction research and therapy, "Why swing? Why bounce? We swing children because a child's nervous system is over-aroused. We're trying to help him get into the right state so that he can do what he needs to do -- homework, etc. Every child is different, so we need to know what type of vestibular and proprioceptive input does he need?"

Unfortunately for many families, while occupational therapy (OT) may be offered free of charge through the school district, and a school OT may offer what they call sensory integration therapy, the OTs training may simply be too sketchy to allow for individualized therapy. Generic therapy is often useless. But the cost of a private SI therapist (rarely covered by insurance) can be very high.

To be sure that a child is receiving appropriate therapy, Dr. Miller says, "I recommend that parents make specific goals and check in two months to see if they're making progress. If not, stop and do something else. Don't do too much therapy or too many types of therapy. You need time to play with your kid, and kids need time to play with each other. They do know about other children even if they don't seem to be aware. There is such a thing as too much therapy."

Miller also recommends asking a child's occupational therapist for their continuing education and training background. Have they actually completed courses or certifications in sensory integration therapy? If not, they may be underqualified to work with a child with sensory integration issues.

The KID Foundation does offer a database of trained sensory integration therapists, as does Sensory Integration International (home of the Ayers Clinic). If you can't work with a private therapist, it is certainly appropriate to ask whether a child's OT has had specific SI training, and to have SI goals included in the child's Individual Education Plan (IEP).


American Association of Pediatrics. Technical Report: The Pediatrician's Role in the Diagnosis and Management of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 107 No. 5 May 2001, p. e85.

Baumesiter, AA et al. A critique of the application of sensory integration therapy to children with learning disabilities. J Learn Disabil. 1994 Jun-Jul;27(6):338-50.

Hatch-Rasmussen, Cindy M.A., OTR/L. Sensory Integration Center for the Study of Autism

Miller, Lucy Jane, Ph.D., Director, KID Foundation: Interview, February, 2006.

Miller, Lucy Jane, Ph.D. Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Overview of Sensory Processing Disorder from the Knowledge in Development Foundation website.

Sensory Integration International Website/Ayers Clinic Smith SA, et al. Effects of sensory integration intervention on self-stimulating and self-injurious behaviors. Am J Occup Ther. 2005 Jul-Aug;59(4