Sensory Conference: Perception is Reality with Paula Aquilla

Sensory Conference: Perception is Reality -

Sensory Conference: Perception is Reality with Paula Aquilla, BSc., OT

I was blessed to attend the Sensory Conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas, last month as a blogger for Future Horizons. They paid my registration to the conference, and I gladly added in some travel expenses and headed north!

The first half of the conference was presented by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. You can see my notes from those sessions in earlier posts, which I have linked to at the bottom of this post.

The second half of the day was presented by Paula Aquilla, BSc., OT. During her first session, she shared a lot of quotes and really stressed the idea that perception is reality. So, whether we see it the same way or not, the way our children with Sensory Processing Disorder perceive the world is their reality, and we need to help them deal with it!

Paula shared several quotes and thoughts in the first session that stood out. She began by stating that we’re more alike than different and that therapists should take a different point of view.

“An alternative is for the clinician to begin therapy by looking for how the patient experiences the world, asking not ‘How do you feel?’ but ‘How do you know the world?'”

– Dr. John Ratey

“There are no bizarre behaviors—more accurately, there are human responses that are not fully understood or appreciated.”

– Carol Gray, 1997

Paula explained something after mentioning the Carol Gray quote that made a lot of sense to me. She said that behaviors like flapping that we see as “abnormal” behaviors actually have meaning when you consider that a child who does that may have severe sensory issues. What if she can’t feel her hands properly or tell where they are in space? Wouldn’t she flap them to achieve some sort of sensation and determine where they are? If she has visual processing problems too, then flapping them up near her face would give her needed visual information about her body.

I didn’t explain that as well as Paula did, but I hope I did well enough for you to understand what I gained from the illustration—that sometimes the things kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (and/or autism) do that make no sense to us may serve a purpose for them, helping them to try to regulate their bodies better when their senses fail them.

Next Paula addressed the idea that kids with Sensory Processing Disorder are going to have to grow up to live in the “real world.” I have heard that before—that I’m crippling my child by “catering” to her sensory needs. Paula agrees that they have to grow up to function in the real world, but she says to imagine a gap between the SPD kids and the “real world” that is bridged in increments as they receive therapy and grow up, becoming more mature physically, emotionally, and in other areas where they may be lagging developmentally.

Paula went on to discuss the plasticity of the human brain and the importance of recent discoveries that show that the brain creates new connections during and after a person’s experiences. This is great news for kids with SPD because we’re constantly trying to create successful sensory integration experiences for and with them through therapy and a sensory lifestyle!

I will share more from Paula Aquilla’s second session next Saturday. In the last session, she shared specific strategies for assisting children with SPD.

What are your thoughts on Paula’s comments about perception and plasticity?

 Other posts in this series:

For more information and giveaways for Autism Awareness Month, please visit the landing page by clicking the graphic below:

Autism Awareness Month: April 2013 -

Disclosure: I received free registration from Future Horizons to the Sensory Conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I paid my own travel expenses and was not required to write positively about my experiences. All opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for this series of posts.

This entry was posted in Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Sensory Conference: Perception is Reality with Paula Aquilla

  1. How interesting! I had no idea there were such a thing as sensory conferences. I need to go back and read your other posts. I don’t know if you follow Carly Fleischman on Facebook but she is a 19 year old with autism. She is nonverbal but can type and she has a lot to say about hand flapping and other behaviors. She explains why people with autism do what they do. You should check her out.

    • I have heard of her but didn’t realize she has a Facebook page. I will check it out. Thanks for telling me, Dawn!

      The Sensory Conference was wonderful. I’m thankful I was able to go.

  2. Pingback: Autism Awareness Month: April 2013 - Jennifer A. Janes

  3. Pingback: Sensory Conference: SPD Subtypes with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller - Jennifer A. Janes

  4. Pingback: Sensory Conference: Strategies for Regulation with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller - Jennifer A. Janes

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