Sensory Conference: Sensory Integration Fun with Paula Aquilla

Sensory Conference: Sensory Integration Fun with Paula Aquilla -

Last month, I was blessed to attend the Sensory Conference presented by Future Horizons in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I went as a Future Horizons/Sensory World blogger, so my registration was paid for by the company. I gladly added travel expenses and headed to the conference!

The first half of the day was presented by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. The second half was presented by Paula Aquilla, BSc, OT. For notes from the first three sessions, please see the links below the post.

This is the last post in the Sensory Conference series. It covers some of my notes from the fourth session.

Sensory Conference: Sensory Integration Fun with Paula Aquilla

First, let me say that Paula Aquilla is a lot of fun. She actually led us in a cheer she made up for Dr. Lucy Jane Miller after one of Dr. Miller’s sessions. She was no different as a speaker. She is very animated, acting out her points when possible and giving lots of illustrations and examples when not.

In the second session, Paula shared more things to do with children with Sensory Processing Disorder to help them regulate and to meet their sensory needs.

“Fun is the child’s word for sensory integration.”

-Dr. Jean Ayres

Paula presented profiles of several different children with various subtypes of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). She gave recommendations for each, but I can’t share them all! For that reason, I’m going to share some that can be generalized to many children with SPD.

Some ways to help children with SPD regulate:

  • Scented markers or crayons. (My daughter has scented markers and loves them!)
  • “Closing circles” – end each activity with cleaning up because success gives kids a sense of competence.
  • Rocking chair or glider. (I almost got rid of ours years ago, but she kept using it. Now I’m glad I kept it!)
  • Provide a predictable environment.
  • Water play – help with dishes, bath. (Part of a sensory lifestyle, incorporating sensation within what is already happening.)
  • Provide instructions, schedules, and transitions in a visual format.
  • Taking things away from the child’s environment if it’s too busy and is causing overstimulation.
  • Oral motor activities: pop rocks, salty items, sweets, ice chips, something with a different texture.

Paula also presented several reasons children become more disorganized, and it is important to remember that these are outside the child’s control! They will need additional support when they experience these, both with SPD and in other ways.

  1. Growth of any kind: physical, emotional, intellectual, etc. Children may experience some regression during periods of growth.
  2. Anxiety.
  3. Response to environment.
  4. Neurological difficulties, like migraines and seizures.
  5. Biological/physiological difficulties, such as reflux.
  6. Communication needs.
  7. Self concept/awareness needs.
  8. Weather changes/barometric pressure differences. (I have noticed changes in my daughter when fronts move through but had been told by some professionals that it was my imagination. It’s nice to be validated.)

 It is important to suspend judgment as long as possible. Judgment keeps you from seeing what’s going on from any other perspective.

Those who work with children with SPD should have an Inside Out Perspective:

  • Listen – know the person and their goals.
  • Partner with them – to overcome sensory motor and communication challenges.
  • Overcome obstacles to meaningful participation and quality of life.

(Kinnealey, Pfeiffer, 2009)

How can people develop this Inside Out Perspective?

  • See beyond behaviors.
  • Presume intellect.
  • Adapt environment.
  • Engage interests.

(Kinnealey, Pfeiffer, 2009)

Finally, Paula shared how to tell when someone is experience autonomic nervous system or sensory overload. I have seen these in my daughter but didn’t always recognize them as signs of her being on overload. The resulting situations weren’t pretty, so I’m happy to have this knowledge now!

Signs of autonomic nervous system overload:

  • Yawning
  • Sneezing/hiccoughing
  • Sweating
  • Gagging/spitting up
  • Breathing irregularly
  • Changing skin colour/tone
  • Changing state
  • Elimination of bowel or bladder

Behavioral signs of sensory overload:

  • Fussing/crying
  • Grimacing
  • Sighing/startling
  • Stiffening
  • Averting gaze/pushing away
  • Arching back
  • Zoning out

Obviously, these are not always signs of overload, but it’s important to be aware of them and to distinguish between overload and other reasons for the behaviors.

What information from this session did you find most useful?

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.

4 Responses to Sensory Conference: Sensory Integration Fun with Paula Aquilla

  1. Betsy says:

    Very good information! Thanks for posting! =)

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

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

  4. Pingback: Toys and activites to improve sensory integration | PEDI Center for Therapy

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