Sensory Conference: Strategies for Regulation with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller

Sensory Conference: Strategies for Regulation with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller -

This is the second post in a series of four posts sharing my notes from the Sensory Conference Future Horizons presented in Hot Springs, Arkansas, last month. I am thankful that they paid for my registration, sending me as a blogger to share via social media live from the conference and then to give more detailed information in this series.

If you haven’t seen the notes for the first session, you don’t want to miss them! Follow the link for SPD subtypes for the information Dr. Lucy Jane Miller shared.

Dr. Miller gave the audience a choice for her second session. She brought a lot of research data with her, and she also brought strategies for helping children with Sensory Processing Disorder regulate. The audience chose to hear her discuss strategies, so that was the focus of the second session.

I have a copy of the slides for the research part of her talk, but since I didn’t hear her explain them, I don’t understand what most of them mean. As I was flipping through them, one statement did stand out:

“Families of children with SPD have more ‘impairments’ than families of children with mental health dx. (Carter, Ben-Sasson, Briggs-Gowan, 2011)”

This was mentioned under the slide title “Need for Diagnosis.” It underscores Dr. Miller’s belief in Sensory Processing Disorder as a very real physiological issue that needs to be addressed—for the sake of the entire family.

Sensory Conference: Strategies for Regulation with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller

Dr. Miller’s STAR Center uses the ART Treatment Model: Arousal modulation, Relationships and Engagement, and The Just Right Challenge. She believes it’s important for the therapist to develop a close relationship with the family and to have a strong trust relationship. “The Just Right Challenge” means that the activities are selected to be challenging for the child, but not too challenging. They are orchestrated so that the child is sure to be successful.

Dr. Miller’s focus in therapy is joie de vivre, not developmental advances. She wants to restore quality of life to these children and their families and trusts that the developmental advances will come in time. She believes that parents and therapists should help children do what they can do and not spend time focusing on what they can’t do. To work on the trouble areas, you create a sensory lifestyle, not a sensory diet. Instead of creating a sensory diet by adding activities to the family’s day, families and therapists should look at what the family already does and alter those activities to meet the child’s sensory needs and assist regulation.

As you help your child develop a sensory lifestyle, you should offer your child a choice—to be regulated or not regulated, to choose symbols for visual schedules of what will happen next, etc. Children should also be allowed to choose between activities and have a say in what activities they participate in.

Dr. Miller talked a lot about the steps to regulation:

  • dysregulation – the child is very disorganized and dysregulated
  • co-regulation – the adult models regulation for the child
  • self-regulation – the child begins to regulate himself; this is the goal

How do you get to the point of self-regulation with your child? Dr. Miller shared A SECRET with us:

  • Attention: What is attentional state and how can it be used/altered?
  • Sensation: What sensations is the child experiencing and how do they support or challenge the child?
  • Emotion: What emotional state is the child in and what contributes to it?
  • Culture: What are your “cultural mores” (things you do without thinking about them that set the scene for problems) and how do they contribute to the child’s behavior?
  • Relationships: How do relationships help or hurt the child’s abilities?
  • Environment: What in our school and home environment might help or hurt abilities?
  • Task: What job or task might affect behavior and abilities?

Here are some activities Dr. Miller suggested to address the aspects of A SECRET:


  • Carry or push a box with heavy books before a test
  • Chew gum, eat crunchy or chewy foods, sip from a water bottle with a straw
  • Climb a jungle gym/hanging rope/climbing wall before homework
  • Be a library helper before reading
  • Be a janitor helper before lunch

Emotion regulation:

  • Build emotional investment in favorite subjects to increase attention span
  • Help child understand his/her state of arousal (to help regulate emotions)
  • Play charades with emotions


  • Allow use of a transition object in public places
  • Use coupons or colored squares so the child can “find” items while shopping
  • Go shopping early or late when the store is quiet
  • Forget shopping! (Shop online. 😉 )


  • Schedule special time with a parent as a reward
  • 5 minute breaks with a sibling to jump on the trampoline (or do something else) for every 15 minutes of successful homework time
  • 5 minutes of wrestling with Dad after successfully sitting at the table during dinner


  • Make quiet spaces to work in (“time-in” spaces)


  • Take breaks
  • Increase or decrease cognitive demands of the task
  • Use a time timer that counts backwards
  • Allow the child to cross time segments off a chart or calendar

Which activities would help your child become better regulated?

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.

7 Responses to Sensory Conference: Strategies for Regulation with Dr. Lucy Jane Miller

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

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

  3. Lula B says:

    I’m so pleased to have just found your blog (via Collage Friday). My 8 year old son has SPD (mainly affecting vestibular, propriaceptive and tactile processing). Thank you for your comprehensive reporting on the conference. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog! Lucinda

    • Wow! I’m blessed that you stopped by to visit and am so thankful that what you’ve found here has helped. There will be two more posts in the series on the Sensory Conference. I look forward to interacting with you more!

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