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Pediatrics Policy on Sensory Integration Therapies

Posted May 29 2012 1:12pm

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a policy statement on sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorders.  It is a brief 4 page document that briefly discusses the history of sensory integration, recent research on sensory integration and that there is not an official diagnosis for "Sensory Processing Disorder". 

The policy statement makes 4 recommendations for pediatricians
1.  Do not use sensory processing disorder as a diagnosis.  Be sure to thoroughly evaluate for other developmental disorders when sensory symptoms are present.

2.  Inform parents that there is limited data on sensory integration therapy.

3.  If a child is receiving sensory integration therapy work with the parents to determine if it is effective by helping to establish functional goals and ways to track progress.

4.   Inform families that occupational therapy can be a "limited resource" therefore prioritize treatments based on functional goals related to childhood development.

If you are a pediatric OT, PT, parent or teacher who works with children with sensory symptoms, this is a quick, worth while read to keep yourself informed.

This was just released yesterday but there has already been quick a bit of chatter around the internet and news regarding the statement - some positive and some negative.

In my opinion, this is a necessary and positive policy statement in terms of the field of occupational therapy.  It states that OT may be beneficial to some children but it should be followed closely to determine it effectiveness.  I also think it is very important that the pediatricians and the public realize that "sensory processing disorder" is not an official diagnosis.  I liked how that statement reinforced that sensory integration treatments should result in progress towards functional goals.

My only negative comment is the statement summarizes that there is not sufficient, strong research studies to back up the efficacy of sensory integration treatment.   They discuss the weak research designs.  BUT then they discuss ONE study that resulted in "possible negative behavioral effects of sensory integration therapy in certain populations".  Meanwhile this study had only 4 participants.  Doesn't seem fair to discuss this one negative study without mentioning more details about several positive studies.

Another positive aspect is the recommendation that OT is a limited resource.  Occupational therapists can offer so much to children in terms of reaching functional goals.  If the pediatrician starts the process out with an outlook that there is not a lifetime supply of occupational therapy all people involved, therapists, parents, teachers and the child, will benefit from establishing goals that are attainable with constant progress monitoring.

What is your opinion?  Do you feel the policy statement with help or hinder children who may benefit from occupational therapy services for sensory processing?

You can read the full text article here .  

Reference:  Sensory Integration Therapies for Children With Developmental and Behavioral Disorders. SECTION ON COMPLEMENTARY AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE and COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES. Pediatrics peds.2012-0876; published ahead of print May 28, 2012, doi:10.1542/peds.2012-0876
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